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Shadow Dancer Blu-ray Review

Shadow Dancer (2013) U.S. movie poster Shadow Dancer

US Theatrical Release: May 31, 2013 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: James Marsh / Writer: Tom Bradby (screenplay & novel)

Cast: Andrea Riseborough (Collette McVeigh), Aidan Gillen (Gerry McVeigh), Domhnall Gleeson (Connor McVeigh), Bríd Brennan (Ma McVeigh), David Wilmot (Kevin Mulville), Stuart Graham (Ian Gilmore), Martin McCann (Brendan O'Shea), Gillian Anderson (Kate Fletcher), Clive Owen (Mac), Maria Laird (Young Collette McVeigh), Barry Barnes (Gerry Senior)

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For a number of years, director James Marsh has alternated between documentaries and narrative films. The former have won him acclaim and accolades, most notably the Best Documentary Features Oscar for Man on Wire.
The narrative films have been well-reviewed, but have not managed to reach large audiences. The drama Shadow Dancer continues that tradition. While it grossed an okay $1.3 million in its (and Marsh's) native United Kingdom, it made little noise in the US, where it peaked at just fourteen theaters.

British journalist Tom Bradby's adaptation of his own 1998 novel opens around Christmas 1973 in Belfast with the death of a child sent on an errand, which has a chilling effect on his older sister. We then jump ahead twenty years and find that girl grown up and planting a bomb in a London underground train station. IRA member Collette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough) leaves the bag, but apparently loses the nerve to detonate it. After escaping by tunnels, she winds up getting picked up by an MI5 counterintelligence agent named Mac (Clive Owen). Having enough evidence to put single mother Collette away for a long time, Mac offers her a deal: give up her conspirers as an informant in return for her own protection and freedom.

IRA member Collette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough) looks to bomb a London underground railroad station in "Shadow Dancer."

It's not an easy choice for Collette because those conspirers are her family members. Nonetheless, Collette reluctantly agrees to put her son's safety first and give Mac the bigger fish he needs. Her sudden use of phone booths and parking garages draws some suspicion from one colleague (David Wilmot). Meanwhile, Mac worries he's being kept out of the loop, jeopardizing the protection he's already promised to give Collette.
He takes his concerns to his ex-wife and supervisor (an easily unrecognized Gillian Anderson, the transatlantic former "X-Files" star).

Shadow Dancer is slow, quiet, and moody, a design that renders it arresting much of the time. Nearly as dry as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy but with a much greater human interest angle, the film successfully builds suspense with its close calls and unpredictability. Marsh prefers to show than tell, putting us in Collette's shoes and helping us to appreciate her complicated situation and conflicting allegiances.

The ending is not easily foreseen or comprehended and that undermines the tension developed up to that point, but it's still a taut and involving thriller you can enjoy without having any pre-existing interest in The Troubles of Northern Ireland.

Shadow Dancer is now available to own on DVD and Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment. We review the latter here.

Shadow Dancer Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.35:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: August 20, 2013
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $16.98 (Reduced from $29.98)
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($26.98 SRP $13.97 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Blu-ray's 2.35:1 widescreen picture is not as dynamite as what you may be used to from bigger studios. The video is grainy, washed out, and slightly murky, probably at least partly by design. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio remains mostly low key. The thick Irish accents, however, prove to be hard to understand, likely prompting even some non-hearing impaired English speakers to consult the English SDH subtitles supplied.

Documentarian/director James Marsh listens to Gillian Anderson in "Behind the Scenes of 'Shadow Dancer.'" A blonde Gillian Anderson maintains her convincing British accent for part of her interview.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Shadow Dancer is joined by three bonus features, each presented in soft high definition.

"Behind the Scenes of Shadow Dancer" (8:28) lives up to its title with inclusive,

intelligent cast and crew remarks complementing some clips and a tiny bit of B-roll.

"Cast & Crew Interviews" (27:28) give us extended samples of the aforementioned interview pool, spending time with Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Gillian Anderson, Bríd Brennan, director James Marsh, author/screenwriter Tom Bradby, and producer Chris Coen. They talk about the material, the production and their collaborators. It's a tad overkill, but fans of any of these people will enjoy the chance to hear them speak at greater length.

Finally, "AXS TV: A Look at Shadow Dancer" is a 3-minute short put together from the same material. It's basically a glorified trailer, though the real trailer would have been a more valuable inclusion.

"Also from Magnolia Home Entertainment" provides individual and group access to the nine minutes of ads with which the disc opens, consisting of trailers for To the Wonder, No Place on Earth, Hammer of the Gods, and Syrup, plus a 30-second promo for AXS TV.

An increasingly rare BD-Live section currently allows you to download HD or SD trailers for I Melt with You, Melancholia, Outrage, Point Blank, and Blackthorn.

The menu plays clips it cuts into pieces resembling the cover design. In addition to resuming playback, the disc lets you set bookmarks on the film, even giving you the option to give each a custom name.

There are no inserts or distinguishing features to the standard blue keepcase.

MI5 agent Mac (Clive Owen) has incriminating and painful photographs to support his pitch for Collette to become an informant.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

An involving slow-boiled drama that's likely to fly under most radars, Shadow Dancer warrants a look. Magnolia's Blu-ray is routine but suitable, the shortcomings of its feature presentation seemingly intentional.

Buy Shadow Dancer from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Andrea Riseborough: Oblivion • W./E. • Made in Dagenham • Happy-Go-Lucky | Gillian Anderson: The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Clive Owen: The Boys Are Back • King Arthur • Elizabeth: The Golden Age • Sin City
Animal Kingdom • Eastern Promises • Kill the Irishman • Stand Off • The Guard • Above Suspicion: Set 2 • Argo
New: What Maisie Knew • Amour • Kon-Tiki • Killing Season • Seattle Superstorm • The Sapphires • Magic Magic

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Reviewed August 29, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 Magnolia Pictures, Wild Bunch, BBC Films, BFI, Irish Film Board, Unanimous Entertainment, Element Pictures, Lipsync Productions
and 2013 Magnolia Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.