Review this movie
Sep 9, 2013The 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’sThe 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.… Expand
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.