Metascore
71

Generally favorable reviews - based on 23 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 23
  2. Negative: 0 out of 23
  1. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    May 30, 2013
    91
    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.
  2. Reviewed by: Stephen Holden
    May 30, 2013
    90
    The movie takes no political positions. With an icy detachment, it peers through the fog of war and examines the slippery military intelligence on both sides to portray a world steeped in secrecy, deception and paranoia.
  3. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Apr 12, 2013
    90
    The story in itself is first-rate. However, it’s the very measured handling that makes it distinctive.
  4. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Jun 6, 2013
    88
    This low-key and engrossing Belfast-based drama is as much a well-acted character study as it is a thriller about the conflict in Northern Ireland.
  5. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Jun 13, 2013
    80
    These are characters for whom true belief in a cause has probably become impossible; they know how much that costs. Marsh does a compelling job of illustrating that for the rest of us.
  6. Reviewed by: Ian Buckwalter
    May 31, 2013
    80
    (Marsh) downplays political questions of ideological rights and wrongs. Rather than making a film about terrorism, or about war, Marsh looks at how they affect the people caught up in their machinery.
  7. Reviewed by: Nick Schager
    May 28, 2013
    80
    The film rests on the desperate chemistry of a paunchy, weathered Owen and a tense, quietly ferocious Riseborough.
  8. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Apr 12, 2013
    80
    Shadow Dancer is admittedly slow to gather force and momentum over its 101-minute running time, though by the third act, the deliberately paced drama has exerted a hypnotic grip.
  9. Apr 12, 2013
    80
    Like the political turmoil which inspired it, Shadow Dancer is fueled by the fire to do the right thing and the sacrifice that must follow, and for 100 minutes, it’s a crackerjack ordeal to behold.
  10. Reviewed by: Neil Smith
    Apr 12, 2013
    80
    An expertly calibrated drama confirming Marsh’s status as one of Britain’s most formidable filmmakers.
  11. Reviewed by: Dan Jolin
    Apr 12, 2013
    80
    As beige as an old PC, but beneath the surface the blood pumps bright scarlet. An intelligent and emotionally charged spy drama.
  12. Reviewed by: Mary Houlihan
    Jun 20, 2013
    75
    This is not an in-your-face thriller but rather a measured film ripe with suspense that never lets up.
  13. Reviewed by: IgnatiyVishnevetsky
    May 29, 2013
    75
    If there’s a political edge to this story, it’s in the understanding — implicit from early on — that this is a situation with no satisfying solution; eventually, someone is going to have to die. To that end, director James Marsh, best known for his documentaries "Man On Wire" and "Project Nim," crafts an atmosphere of tenuous dread.
  14. Reviewed by: Andrew Schenker
    May 27, 2013
    75
    James Marsh carries forward the mood and menace of the opening into the balance of the work, perfectly matching his aesthetic strategies to the story's shifting moral terrain.
  15. Reviewed by: John Lichman
    Apr 12, 2013
    75
    With a conclusion that arrives as an open-ended gut punch, you're not just left lingering with unanswered questions, but the sensation that James Marsh has delivered something truly special.
  16. Reviewed by: Connie Ogle
    Jun 6, 2013
    63
    A decent thriller made better by good performances and an intriguing setting.
  17. Reviewed by: Sara Stewart
    May 30, 2013
    63
    Still, the proceedings move so quietly and thoughtfully as to be occasionally somnolent, though they’re punctuated with spasms of the violence that marked the Troubles.
  18. 63
    Owen and Riseborough play their characters awfully close to the vest, not investing in anything that would allow this story to take the romantic or melodramatic turns we expect. But truthfully, that hamstrings the movie.
  19. Reviewed by: Robert Abele
    May 30, 2013
    60
    The character mechanics... leave the viewer always feeling a step ahead of the story and its too-late-to-excite twists. As a portrait of violence-riven motherhood, however, Riseborough gives Shadow Dancer most of its grave power.
  20. Reviewed by: Peter Bradshaw
    Apr 12, 2013
    60
    Marsh's movie is calm, level, downbeat. The tension is subtle – perhaps subtler than it really should be.
  21. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    May 28, 2013
    50
    Not everything from Ireland travels as well as the whiskey. Like mud-thick porridge, Shadow Dancer, another dreary, confusing conspiracy thriller about the Irish “troubles,” is one of them.
  22. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    May 31, 2013
    40
    Riseborough once again transforms herself dramatically, expanding her role as best she can. But neither the hesitant script — adapted by Tom Bradby from his own novel — nor the sluggish tempo give her enough support.
  23. Reviewed by: David Fear
    May 28, 2013
    40
    There’s slow-burning, and then there’s simply slow; the difference between the two has never been so apparent.
User Score
6.8

Generally favorable reviews- based on 12 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 4
  2. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. Lyn
    Mar 22, 2014
    4
    We've seen terrorism as intrigue, as compulsion, as revenge, as religious devotion -- but this movie gives us terrorism as drudgery. The IRAWe've seen terrorism as intrigue, as compulsion, as revenge, as religious devotion -- but this movie gives us terrorism as drudgery. The IRA family just seems to go through the motions, not because they're passionate about a cause, but because since a death in the family years ago, that's what they've always done. Clive Owen is, as always, riveting. But there's no real spark of connection between him and the lead actress, who simply cannot convey enough information or emotion through her perpetually wrinkled brow. Whispered and mumbled dialogue is hard to catch at times and that doesn't help. Full Review »
  2. Sep 9, 2013
    8
    The title is supposed to refer to a code name given to a confidential police file, but it more aptly can be applied to the heroine of theThe title is supposed to refer to a code name given to a confidential police file, but it more aptly can be applied to the heroine of the film, Collette, played by Andrea Riseborough. Collette is a young woman marked for life by the traumatic death of her little brother who left the house one day on an errand and got caught in the crossfire between IRA and government forces. Collette’s family survives the tragedy in 1973, and twenty years later the family is famous for their covert operations as IRA terrorists, which include Collette and her surviving brothers. The “Troubles” are about to end with an official pact, but the militant McVeigh family will do everything they can to continue to disrupt, provoke, and terrorize society.

    Collette, a single mother who still lives with her own mother and her brothers, tries to leave a bag with a bomb inside a London underground train station, but she forgets to set the timer. She is immediately arrested by MI5 agents who have been following her. She is offered a deal to go free if she agrees to spy on her own brothers, a deal made by Mac, the British agent played by Clive Owen. Collette is in an untenable position. If she goes to jail, her little boy will be taken away from her by the authorities. To protect him, she agrees to be a mole. But the expression on her face shows her inner torment, and that expressiveness continues throughout the film as the emotions play across her face like the dance of shadows in the film’s title.

    The penalty for betrayal in the IRA is death, even if the death sentence has to be carried out by Collette’s own brothers. They all report to a ruthless IRA chief, Kevin Mulville (David Wilmot). Kevin becomes suspicious of Collette’s actions, and he begins to notice that the police seem to be always one step ahead of them. Collette has to rely on Mac for her protection, which he has promised her, but all is not right back at MI5 headquarters where Mac’s boss (Gillian Anderson) seems to be distancing herself from the spy that Mac recruited under his boss’s very own orders. Mac has now taken on the responsibility of tracking down the history behind the deal struck with Collette, where he eventually becomes alarmed by the knowledge of divided loyalties, subterfuges, and betrayal among the government agents that were dramatic enough to rival the IRA terrorists.

    Collette is a survivor, however, and her strength is tested as she has to decide whether to respect the deal she made with the handsome agent to whom she is attracted or to honor her natural loyalties to country, cause, and family. How she chooses to resolve this conflict is a shocking ending to a movie that gives telling insight into the history and culture of the IRA. Riseborough, last seen as the brainwashed and deadpan clone in Oblivion, gives a multilayered and nuanced performance. Owen as Mac is straightforward but sensitive and responsible, always seeking the truth with his daunting blue eyes. All the performances in this film are very strong including those of Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, and Brid Brennan.

    The movie is filmed in grays and soft tones, except for Collette’s red trench coat, a symbol of her passion and her fury, amid the humble structures and unpainted walls of working-class Irish neighborhoods. The thick Irish brogue, however, is sometimes difficult to understand, especially when Collette speaks in her characteristic soft voice. Fortunately, you can usually divine what she said from the reactions of the other characters.
    Full Review »
  3. Jul 22, 2013
    5
    Clive is, undoubtedly, a star, and only for his sake I give it a five, the rest is just boring, and if only, half the movie I couldn'tClive is, undoubtedly, a star, and only for his sake I give it a five, the rest is just boring, and if only, half the movie I couldn't understand much what was said, partly they whispered, a lot of old fashioned slang, I am now finished with it and left bewildered, no idea what I just watched Full Review »