Friday, 7 September 2012

Shadow Dancer Review

The BBC Films Production Company has been associated with some fantastic pieces of British cinema. The Damned United, Eastern Promises and Billy Elliot have been personal favourites from a fruitful list of films and documentaries. Director James Marsh has shown his strong hand at directing documentaries; the brilliant Man on Wire and last year’s Project Nim. But his direction on an episode of Channel 4‘s intense crime-drama series Red Riding, showed his growing capabilities within the crime-drama genre. Yet with the glowing 4 star reviews from the likes of The Guardian and Empire, Shadow Dancer is a very disappointing and overlong affair that never gets going. 

Set in Belfast during “The Troubles” of the 1990s and the Peace Agreement, Colette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough) has grown up  regretting for her younger brother’s death, and is now an active member of the IRA. After being apprehended by Mac (Clive Owen), an MI5 operative, she becomes an informant for British Intelligence to keep protect her son. Shadow Dancer is a slow-burner, and not in a good way. Labelled as a “thriller”, James Marsh struggles to flesh out anything within a rather simplistic and predictable story. With a basic narrative, the film seems to forget the period and the socio-political events within Northern Ireland and the later stages of “The Troubles”, only vaguely and briefly addressing the Joint Declaration of Peace. The also film hints at various confrontations and hidden agendas within British Intelligence, yet never successfully deals with them. The ending further “craps” on whatever small semblance of intrigue by going against the entire methodology of the film, and assumes the audience has built an emotional connection with the characters for it to convey its intended “effect”. 
Leading the cast, Andrea Riseborough is either completely mis-casted or fails to recognise the emotional depth to her character. Constantly staring blankly, addressing her constant need to mind her child and crying, never makes Colette and interesting and engaging character throughout the course of the story. Clive Owen’s career has been a questionable one. For every Children of Men there’s a King Arthur or Killer Elite and to be brutally honest, his performances have never protruded  the usual monotone and miserable act he gives. The problem here is he never starts to develop into the role until the third act, and by then his character feels insignificant. The likes of Gillian Anderson, Aidan Gillen and Domhnall Gleeson are underused, lacking in dialogue and substance. With such a talented cast, it’s unfortunate that nothing remarkable or striking emerges from them. It’s seems a waste and a missed opportunity. 

Visually, Shadow Dancer is your standard BBC Drama affair that tones down the colour palette with greys and muted tones. The use of natural lighting and interior details give some charm and personality, and its clear Marsh wanted a natural and subtle look to the film. Meanwhile the camerawork is nothing special, and becomes increasing frustrating due its tendency to stay glued to a particular shot for far too long. And with this being Riseborough teary-eyed face most of the time, it becomes extremely tedious. Even the soundtrack is dull and scarce, consisting of the same piano composition being played over and over again.

Overall Shadow Dancer’s high praise from film critics is rather puzzling. The film’s basic plot and characters beg for the IRA and 1990s Northern Ireland context to add substance and depth. It’s not beautifully shot, it’s not well-acted and it’s lacking the intensity and thriller elements to make it an “intense thriller”. Yet in the end, Shadow Dancer fits the criteria for an 4-part episodic drama on BBC One, and would have possibly benefited from exploring each side of the conflict; Politics, Family, MI5 and a finale. Disappointing. 


No comments:

Post a Comment