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When a widowed mother is arrested in an aborted bomb plot she must make hard choices to protect her son in this heart-wrenching thriller.
For more about Shadow Dancer and the Shadow Dancer Blu-ray release, see Shadow Dancer Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on January 29, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: James Marsh
Starring: Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Gillian Anderson, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, Stuart Graham (I)
» See full cast & crew
Shadow Dancer Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 29, 2013
Winner of Best Actress Award at the British Independent Film Awards, James Marsh's "Shadow Dancer" (2012) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Paramount Pictures-UK. The supplemental features on the disc include an original trailer for the film; short featurette; and audio commentary with director James Marsh and writer Tom Brady. In English, with optional English and English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
The film opens up with a short prologue in which young Colette McVeigh loses her brother during a shootout between British and Irish forces. She looks absolutely devastated because she feels that it is her fault. The location is Belfast. The year is 1973.
Twenty years later Colette (Andrea Riseborough, Made in Dagenham) plants a bomb in a subway station in London. Shortly after she exits the area, she is captured by MI5 agents. Then she is quickly transported to a heavily guarded apartment where special agent Mac (Clive Owen, Children of Men) offers her a deal: work for us or end up in prison. To help her decide, Mac casually explains that an Irish girl most likely won't last too long in a British prison.
Colette agrees to work for MI5 and begins meeting Mac every week. She supplies him with information about her two brothers, Gerry (Aidan Gillen, Blitz) and Connor (Domhnall Gleeson, True Grit), both high-ranking IRA members who routinely carry out terrorist attacks. As a mother, she also tries to spend time with her son.
Soon after, local IRA leader Kevin (David Wilmot, Intermission) realizes that there is a tout (traitor) in the organization. He begins following Colette and at one point even decides to eliminate her, but in the last minute changes his mind. Then Connor asks Colette to assist him neutralize an important Irish politician who might have collaborated with the British.
Meanwhile, seriously concerned about the safety of his informer, Mac approaches his superior (Gillian Anderson) with a request for help. Her cold reaction surprises him and he decides to get Colette out of Belfast before it is too late. While trying to arrange her escape, he accidentally makes a dangerous discovery.
Based on Tom Bradby's novel, James Marsh's Shadow Dancer is a quiet yet very intense film about different people who have been sucked into a deadly political game --there are teams but no team players, only shadows with different agendas.
It takes some time to figure out who are the important players, but the uncertainty effectively adds to the film's tense atmosphere. As Colette and Mac start working together, one begins to realize that there are different shadows observing each move they make. As the game progresses, it is also revealed that all of the principles and beliefs in the name of which the players are supposedly risking their lives mean very little.
The film's casual visual style reminds of Marsh's excellent Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire. Especially during the second half it often feels like one is watching archival clips from a recently declassified feature about MI5 agents and their informers. The pivotal execution sequence, filmed with a hand-held camera, is chillingly realistic.
Riseborough is fantastic as the disenchanted mother who struggles to maintain some balance in her life. She is under tremendous pressure to prove to both sides that she can be trusted - and she does. Owen is also very convincing as the ambitious agent. Anderson has a surprisingly small role but still leaves a memorable impression.
Dickon Hinchliffe's (Winter's Bone) beautiful ambient score very effectively adds to the film's tense atmosphere.
Shadow Dancer Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, James Marsh's Shadow Dancer arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Paramount Pictures-UK.
Contrast levels are intentionally toned down to enhance the film's period look (Shadow Dancer opens up in 1973 and then the action moves to 1993). Colors are consistently warm and soft, with the grays and blacks in particular never appearing rich and well saturated. There is an abundance of natural light throughout the entire film as well. This very specific, at times quite bleak intended look is rather impressively retained by the high-definition transfer. The outdoor sequences in particular look very good. There are small portions of the film where some extremely light compression artifacts sneak in (see the lower right corner of screencapture #6), but none of them ever become distracting. Generally speaking, detail and depth are always very pleasing. There is good fluidity during the few panoramic sequences as well. Finally, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. All in all, this is a competent presentation of Shadow Dancer that should please its fans. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
Shadow Dancer Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Paramount Pictures have provided optional English and English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
Silence has a prominent role in Shadow Dancer. But the film is also complimented by a moody ambient soundtrack that has an equally important role. Generally speaking, dynamic movement is limited, but the 5.1 track opens up the film very well where the music is used to enhance the tense atmosphere. There are random sounds that are also quite effective. The dialog is crisp, stable, and clean, but most English speakers will likely have to use the optional English subtitles as the accents could be quite thick at times.
Shadow Dancer Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Shadow Dancer Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
From all of the films that won awards at BIFA last year, James Marsh's Shadow Dancer is the best one that I've seen. It is a superbly directed and acted political thriller that rivals some of the very best genre films from recent years. I am unsure if a U.S. release is planned, but if it isn't, and you enjoy intelligent films, I urge you to consider importing it. Paramount's presentation of the film is very good. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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