Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Shadow Dancer

"Wait, what did they say? Who are they after? Why did she do that?"

I would say that Shadow Dancer, the tale of IRA terrorists in the '90s and the MI5 agents out to get them, heralded my entrance into the world of senior citizenism, but The Boy had just a hard a time following it as I did.

It wasn't the accents, especially. The brogue here isn't as severe as it probably would be in real life, and nothing as extreme as, say, Billy Elliot. But it was one of those films where the ambient noise seems needlessly loud relative to the mumbly dialog.

Then you have a certain similarity between the look of certain characters. There were a couple of gingers and a couple of brown-haired dudes I kept getting mixed up.

The relationships were kind of murky, too: Since this is a movie about (essentially) a terrorist cell, it's hard to tell who's in charge, who's reporting to whom, who the scariest ones are, etc.

Despite all this, we enjoyed it, which probably means if we could've figured out what was going on, we would've really liked it.

The premise, from what I could tell was this: Young Colette (Andrea Riseborough of Happy-Go-Lucky and Never Let Me Go) is part of a family of Irish terrorists, and as a child sees her young brother killed during a terrorist attack. The English are blamed, of course, which gives us an understanding of why, as an adult, she is riding through The Underground with a duffel bag full of explosives.

But instead of setting them off in a subway, she sets them down in a passageway where they're guaranteed to be found, and flees, only to be caught by MI5. In custody, an agent known to her as "Mac" (who has been tracking her long enough to feel he knows her, and that she's redeemable) gives her the option of life in jail, with her son going to whatever-they-call-child-protective-services-in-Britain, or to become a mole in her own home, spying on her own family.

This is kind of a double-reverse whammy, because there's already a mole somewhere in her little terrorist cell.

Lotta good suspense and mystery in these parts, with some interesting twists coming in the form of Mac's boss (played by Gillian Anderson) who seems to be using Mac and Colette for her own unknown purposes.

Mac is played by Clive "And just when everything was going so well" Owen.

Directed by James Marsh (director of the great documentary Man On Wire) who did well, except for maybe the sound recording choices, from a screenplay based on a book (both written by Tom Bradby).

There may have been an expectation of greater understanding of context from the audience. All I really know about IRA terrorism is that it was terrorism, and embarrassingly popular in the US for a couple of decades (prior to 9/11, of course).

The movie still works, though. The Boy has my lack of facility for identifying similar faces, and there are a bunch of pasty-faced micks in this thing. (I can say "micks", I think, because I'm Irish. I think.) But we both liked the film, despite our (or its) various deficiencies.

Did not understand the ending. I mean, I know what happened and who was behind it, but I did not grasp enough of Colette's character to understand her motivation. What I kind of think is going on is that the movie is playing with traditional narrative ideas about how protagonists act and should be, and telling us, no, you're wrong, the facts don't change because you spin them a different way.

But maybe I just missed the obvious. Either way, the fact that it's something intriguing and engaging is a bonus.

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