Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

This Year's James Bond Is James Marsh's 'Shadow Dancer'

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire May 30, 2013 at 12:20PM

Generally speaking, this is an off-year for James Bond. Recent reports suggest that Sam Mendes, widely acclaimed for rejuvenating the franchise with last year's "Skyfall," will return for another installment sometime next year, which means the next Bond movie will hit theaters…well, later. But if it's smart, elegant British espionage tales you crave, the fix arrives much sooner than that, with the release of James Marsh's "Shadow Dancer" in theaters this week.
1
Shadow Dancers, Clive Owen, Andrea Risenborogh

Generally speaking, this is an off-year for James Bond. Recent reports suggest that Sam Mendes, widely acclaimed for rejuvenating the franchise with last year's "Skyfall," will return for another installment sometime next year, which means the next Bond movie will hit theaters…well, later. But if it's smart, elegant British espionage tales you crave, the fix arrives much sooner than that, with the release of James Marsh's "Shadow Dancer" in theaters this week.

While not designed to entertain on the level of style and spectacle that one expects from a Bond film, this tense period drama from the director of "Man on Wire" presents a far more credible take on the daring exploits of British agents. At its center, Belfast I.R.A soldier Colette (Andrea Riseborough) is captured by suave MI5 agent Mack (Clive Owen) after her failed attempt to detonate a subway bomb in 1993. In the mesmerizing negotiation that follows, Mack talks Collette into collaborating with British agents by spying on her own family in a vaguely defined plea bargain that might keep her out of prison so she can tend to her young child.

It's fitting that Clive Owen, one of the more interesting male stars working today, was once in talks to play Bond.

The strength of that promise is continually tested in ensuing scenes, as Collette struggles to push against family ties and Mack battles his bureaucratic overlords in an attempt to keep his promise to Collette. In the end, nobody wins, but that's not a spoiler so much as a result preordained by the stakes laid out in the opening sequence.

Marsh, best known for his documentary work, ably taps into a believable world of hidden regrets and murky politics at the root of the Northern Ireland conflict. The movie's prologue finds Collette, as a child, sending her brother out on an errand only to see him return minutes later with a moral bullet wound -- another casualty of the British occupation. With those personal stakes rooted deep in her psyche, Collete's worldview is entirely defined by the conflict, which makes her conundrum when forced to prioritize her son's safety into an involving scenario. But Marsh's especially adept at keeping the ideological grandstanding to a minimum. Instead, "Shadow Dancer" barrels forward with swiftly constructed suspense that transforms the premise into a high octane thriller.

Shadow Dancer

It's fitting that Owen, one of the more interesting male stars working today, was once in talks to play Bond. In the role of Mac, he turns the idea of a slick agent into something more credible, trading fancy gadgets and shaken martinis for taut negotiations and messy chase scenes. To take the 007 comparison one step further, Collette is ostensibly the Bond girl in this equation, but unlike that sexist archetype, she's a fully realized creation whose reliance on Mac forces him to go beyond his sense of duty and possibly even go rogue.

There are plenty of great set pieces in "Shadow Dancer," most of which contain no dialogue. Collette's initial arrest -- which finds her wandering through a subterranean route before dropping off her weapon and then getting pushed into a vehicle by stern-faced authorities -- unfolds in long, immersive takes that push the scenario out of its political context and into a more universal realm of utter dread. It's not the last time. Like Jean-Pierre Melville's "Army of Shadows," Marsh's movie portrays the conflict between underground rebels and authorities as tangential to a broader desire to simply keep going. That same mentality has informed the Bond franchise since its inception, even though it exploits those same feelings. Seeing as plenty of time will pass until the next installment, "Shadow Dancer" provides an ideal interlude by allowing us the opportunity to get real. 

Criticwire grade: A-

This article is related to: Reviews, Shadow Dancer, James Marsh, Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More