Flick of The Day: Shadow Dancer

There are many compelling stories to be found in the near thirty years of internecine conflict which struck Northern Ireland over the last few decades. Perhaps the most interesting tale are those individuals who risked their lives to spy on the various terrorist groups at the behest of the British government, today's flick of the day Shadow Dancer, is such a tale.
Set in Belfast in 1993 in the dying days of the conflict as peace rears its head, Shadow Dancer is the story of Colette McVeigh a committed IRA terrorist. While attempting to place a bomb on the London Underground, she is captured by MI5 in the form of  the mild mannered but diligent agent Mac, played by Clive Owen. Mac offers her two options, either go to prison or go on the payroll. A reluctant Colette opts to spy so that she can protect her young son and returns to Belfast. We learn that her family are deeply involved in the cause with her two brothers Gerry and Connor operating their own unit. Gerry is the quiet yet disturbingly  intense commander played by the brilliant Aidan Gillen while Connor played by Domhnall Gleeson is floppy haired and loose lipped yet no less committed than his brother. Watching over this is the creepy Kevin, played by David Wilmot in a fine performance, an IRA lieutenant trying to root out any informants in the group. It becomes apparent that Kevin is deeply suspicious of Colette. As Colette begins to pass information, the noose begins to tighten around her family as a series of near misses ratchet up the tension. 
A dark film from beginning to end, it is perhaps the best portrayal that I have come across of the sheer terror that was caused in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.  The sword of Damocles which hangs over Colette throughout is something which affected all inhabitants of that troubled land at some time. The fear of what was around the corner, a bullet or a bomb with your name on it. This creates and incredible tension which becomes unbearable as the film reaches its climax. The twist in the tale when it comes is unexpected but yet not out of character to the rest of the film.
While James March direction is assured throughout, he is aided by some great performances. The male leads deliver pitch perfect performances but particular attention must go to Andrea Riseborough as Colette and Brid Brennan as her mother, two women who are victims of circumstance and yet persevere to the bitter end. They both bring a great presence to the screen.
An intense gripping film throughout, this is an excellent adaptation of the earlier novel which builds from a slow burn to an explosive finale. Debuting out of competition at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2012, it is a must see.