The Dangerous Path of the Shadow Dancer

in 50th Gijón International Film Festival

by Günter Jekubzik

Shadow Dancer is the story of female undercover agents in Belfast, Northern Ireland during 1993 in what was the final phase of the resistance against the British occupiers. Is this history? Following the involvement of German federal agencies in a series of murders by an extreme right group (NSU), it seems all these secret services manipulate unscrupulous people and put their lives on the line without hesitation. This exciting and ingenious thriller also continued the Gijon theme of power and coercive relationships between men and women (see Fipresci winner The Patience Stone). Last but not least, we get to know why ‘Scully’ left the FBI: Clive Owen at the British agency looks a lot fresher than Duchovny.

The Belfast of 1973 doesn’t make for nice stories. Dad sends Collette to get some cigarettes. She does not want to go and shortly after her brother, who went instead, is shot on the street. This is just a normal day during the so-called “civil war” of the English army against the IRA and Catholic population of Northern Ireland. Twenty years later, Collette (Andrea Riseborough) gets caught while planting a bomb in the London Tube. A very sympathetic agent named Mac (Clive Owen) offers her to spy on Gerry who is against the ceasefire. Otherwise jail will separate Collette from her small son. The young woman agrees, although it may be her death sentence. And indeed after her first ‘information’, which helps to prevent an assassination, she is left to fend for herself by the British. But Mac was also betrayed by his boss (‘Scully’ Gillian Anderson) and tries to save ‘his’ spy. After a kiss from Collette, she is leading him now….

Shadow Dancer presents a blonde Gillian Anderson, but really impressive is the performance by Andrea Riseborough who had already made an impact as Wally in Madonna’s weak WE. Not glamorous anymore, but closed off and driven her face shows the constraints of a terrible situation. While Collette enjoys every moment of joy with her son, none of the men realize that there is more to life than killing and fighting. The security chief of the IRA already suspects something; Collette is being interrogated while Mac tries to find the real traitor, which is not going to be the last surprise in this great political thriller.

Edited by Steven Yates