Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Shadow Dancer, dir. James Marsh, wr. Tom Bradby, st. Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Aidan Gillen, Gillian Anderson

One of the more quietly startling aspects of Marsh's 2008 docu-drama Man On Wire was how easily high-wire walker Philippe Petit was able to breach the World Trade Centre's security, thus enabling him to rig a high-tension cable from the towers' corners. Shadow Dancer sees Marsh re-visit the looming spectre of terrorism via a meticulously evoked sense of 90s muted-colour drabness. Riseborough plays Colette McVeigh - surely surnamed to instil in us a sense of foreboding from the off - a member of the IRA ensnared and threatened with imprisonment by MI5 agent Mac (Owen). Only turning informant for them will save her incarceration, and her boy from going into care. This is the kind of production that the BBC do best - slow burning, economically edited, persuasively performed and throughout, an impending sense of doom pervading the whole runtime. For the most part the film eschews broader commentary on how the IRA's motives dovetail into national politics in favour of exploring the intimate inter-familial bonds that held their ranks together. To this end, Riseborough gives a absorbingly stoic performance as Colette - numbed into submission by Mac on one side, and the chilling Kevin Mulville (David Wilmot) on the other, whose very presence at the McVeigh house usually foreshadows an offer unrefusable. There's also solid support from Anderson as Mac's superior Kate Fletcher, exuding a breezy air of plausible deniability, and who may or may not be playing Mac as part of a higher-tiered operation above his pay-grade. An immersive and sombre watch.