Shadow Dancer (James Marsh, 2012)

What's it about? Belfast, 1993. Collette (Andrea Riseborough) is recruited as an IRA informer by MI5 officer Mac (Clive Owen) and divulges Republican secrets in order to protect herself and her son. But how long can she keep her secret hidden?  

Is it any good? No, it's a pretty disappointing affair. It certainly looks and sounds the part, with a gloomily accurate depiction of West Belfast in the early 90s, whilst the performers deserve credit for nailing those tricky Belfast accents when so many have failed. But the characters they play are shallow, their motivations are woolly and the story is poorly assembled, a real surprise given director Marsh is the same man who put together the fabulously gripping documentary Man on Wire. In a better written and constructed film, the performances might have really made an impact. As it is, they are served badly by the story, which is a shame for Riseborough in particular, who is very good. In the end, the whole thing becomes increasingly muddled and as a result fails to generate any tension or emotional impact. Although, actually, that's not true. It made me sad. Sad for all those who were embroiled in the dirty war in Northern Ireland, sad that when I was growing up this sort of stuff was routine news. And sad that, despite the peace processrecent events in Belfast show those deep-rooted divisive feelings haven't gone away, you know.

Anything else I should know? The script was written by ITV's political editor Tom Bradby. That must be a piss-easy job as he also finds time to write novels, one of which was Shadow Dancer, based on an idea he had whilst working as a reporter in Belfast. In a slightly self-congratulatory article here, he explains the journey from idea to novel to screenplay to screen. It's a long, but interesting read, certainly much more interesting than the film the whole process produced. 

What does the Fonz think? Are ye dancing? No thanks, big lad.

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