Arts & EntertainmentMoviesMovies Now

Review: 'Shadow Dancer' follows its lead

Man on Wire (movie)Project Nim (movie)

Ascending British actress Andrea Riseborough's face is an exquisite road map of pain, fear and resolve in "Shadow Dancer," a thriller that explores questions of loyalty against a backdrop of Northern Ireland politics in the early '90s.

Riseborough plays Belfast-born young mother Collette, a tragedy-stricken daughter of the Troubles. After she's caught trying to blow up a London subway, an MI5 officer (Clive Owen) taps her to spy on her IRA brothers. Riseborough captures this queasy situation with grimly haunting grace. It's too bad the film around her — adapted by Tom Bradby from his novel — hews to a fairly conventional template for informant-story tension, especially after wowing us early with the nervy scene in which Collette wanders ghostlike through the motions of planting the bomb.

Director James Marsh, known more for his documentary work ("Man on Wire," "Project Nim"), can be an effective mood-setter, imbuing an interrogation room, neighborhood bar, kitchen or suburban street with plenty of pale gray tension. But the character mechanics — from Owen's tough-yet-moral case handler to Collette's dutifully Republican brothers (including Aidan Gillen) and a clinical MI5 agent (Gillian Anderson) — leave the viewer always feeling a step ahead of the story and its too-late-to-excite twists. As a portrait of violence-riven motherhood, however, Riseborough gives "Shadow Dancer" most of its grave power.

----------------------

"Shadow Dancer." Rated R for language and some violent content. Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes. Playing at the Laemmle Monica 4-Plex.

PHOTOS AND MORE PHOTOS: Faces to watch 2014 | Movies ENVELOPE: The latest awards buzz DOCUMENTARIES: 10 best of 2013, and a new crop in 2014

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading