Brits are the villains in a lot of recent Hollywood movies. Hardly any recent American release is without a sneering voice in the tone of English received pronunciation.
That means London-based posh voices, like those traditionally associated with the BBC, give you a clue about who is the bad guy.
It’s a little curious that this current BBC film follows so many American film conventions, while offering a great deal of originality too.
After the initial shocking event, there is a long scene on the London Tube, in virtual silence. It’s stunning to watch and dares to make big points without any dialogue and with limited music.
Andrea Riseborough’s face does most of the work in these key moments. This is very much her film.
Just when you are settling into a different visual feel, too familiar scenes of IRA funerals and British Army bad guys pull the story back to a pedestrian tale of the Troubles.
“Shadow Dancer” offers a retro subject switch back to Northern Ireland, which has been an unpopular subject for film since 9/11.
Bits of it feel very original while others feel pulled out of the overly familiar and ordinary.
Based on ITV’s Tom Bradby book, it tells the story of an IRA informer who is forced to work for MI5. It has that “based on real events” tag attached to it.
With Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson playing the main spy handlers, there is lots of super acting from the whole ensemble. Brid Brennan, playing Colette’s (Riseborough) mother, is terrific.
Aidan Gillen and Domhnall Gleeson deserve special mentions too and manage to bring real individuality to their roles as IRA tough guys.
The period feel of both the 1970s and the early 1990s is done very lovingly. You can almost smell the polyester.
It all feels very artistic and pretty, even, oddly, when there is violence.
Director James Marsh has an impressive background in documentaries, including last year’s “Project Nim” and he keeps that distinctive way of telling a small story in a big way that made “Red Riding” such a huge TV success.
The audience at Stratford Picturehouse was respectful and seemed to enjoy it a lot. For me, it was worth seeing but fell somewhere between the arty and the extended TV movie. Sections were superb and the whole was technically polished, but I never really cared that much about any of the characters.
However, silence in several scenes is startling and grabbed me.
If your tastes run to arthouse and you are fed up with super-power stories, this is for you.