Film Review: Shadow Dancer

I am still not 100% sure how I feel about Shadow Dancer. I certainly didn’t expect the type of film I ultimately ended up watching, but that is both a positive and a negative when it comes to forming an opinion and view as to where it’s actually any good. Shadow Dancer follows the life the of a single mother and IRA sympathiser who is turned into a MI5 spy; you can therefore, forgiven for thinking that this film has the potential for top quality action and gripping, tense twists that will leave you shaken to the very core. And based upon the reviews you’ll find online, from both the mainstream media and viewing public alike, things should fall that way.

Instead, what I found was a cold and sad story that never really wants to play with its audience but rather, asks that it audience to sit quietly and observe. It’s a library. What I mean by that, is rather than draw you and play with your emotions in a “cat and mouse” type of way as you’d expect, it simply takes you on a journey of reflection. It’s more a case of showing you just how pulled apart, and broken her life has become and how her loyalties can be tried, tested and examined by everybody around her and then simply asks the question of those watching: “how would you deal with all this?”.

As a result, you are left with a withdrawn and slow film. This isn’t helped by the fact that there is virtually no progression to the dialogue, with a script that feels every time like it is simply saying the shortest and most concise sentence possible to convey what it needs to. It never wants to explain and it never goes into detail. Instead, Shadow Dancer relies more on the bleakness created through its photography and colour pallet to explain and inform rather than the spoken word. And this causes me an issue, because while it’s a technique than can successfully work when done well, in this I couldn’t help but feel that they have overly saturated the footage to try and heighten this effect, I watched it on Blu-ray and think that you could easily save some money and buy a standard DVD because I felt this saturation created a sense of watching a poorly made low budget film, than a cinematic tool that added anything to the film.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, because the one thing this movie does well is create a feeling that it is showing you a situation that is real. This could happen. This feels like real life. I have never been to Belfast, or lived through the troubles, so I am not really in a position to say just have truthful this feeling actually is, but it’s certainly there. But in the same way Broken made me feel like I was simply glimpsing into the lives of real people, Shadow Dancer has a realism that draws you, once again, into everyday life. This is a British film that is trying to represent the day to day lives of it characters and not a Hollywood blockbuster cramming in as many high octane explosions and plot twists as possible. But sadly, when you combine this very good sense of realism to the style in which it’s shot and the pace at which it moves forward, it wouldn’t have surprise me if at some point they’d included a sequence of them popping down to the corner shop for a pint of milk. However, they even knew that might be pushing the realism and monotony too far.

I wouldn’t shy away from Shadow Dancer if you haven’t seen it. But like I’ve said, firstly only bother with it on DVD and secondly, if you want something that feels polished and will entertain then maybe watch something else, because Shadow Dancer is anything but you average mainstream movie. It’s quite and reflective and sad. And that annoyingly, is both a good and bad thing.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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