In a recent New York Times Magazine article, Jude Law was quoted as saying he felt relieved not to have to play “that young sort of pretty thing anymore”. Clive Owen, it would seem, is currently transitioning into a similar space. Having shed his early billing as the British Mr. Clooney, the 48-year old Owen has since settled into his pace – a pace that allows him to accept less domineering roles every now and again … roles which portray him as being less shrewd, more vulnerable, and – ultimately – more relatable. To that end, Owen has never been more relatable than he is throughout James Marsh’s Shadow Dancer.
Owen plays an MI5 agent in the film, caught square in the crosshairs of an ongoing battle between the British Government and the Irish Republican Army. Owen’s character (Mac) is smart, but not brilliant. He’s imposing, yet not overbearing. His primary IRA contact is played by Andrea Riseborough – an up-and-coming actress who’s appeared in no less than three major pictures this year (Oblivion, Shadow Dancer, Welcome to The Punch). Riseborough is good, but she pales in comparison to Owen. He anchors this picture in such an unassuming manner that you probably won’t see any of the major angles coming until they jump right up and grab you.
Shadow Dancer is good, but it falls just short of some of the all-time IRA movies (In The Name of The Father, Veronica Guerin and The Crying Game among them). This is primarily because the former takes so goddamn long to arrive at where it’s going. Despite that, the payoff is substantial, and so is the whole premise. If you have a passing interest in the IRA or even the constant strain that existed between the Irish and the English throughout the 1990s, it’s an intriguing addition to an already fascinating sub-genre.
(Shadow Dancer arrives via Video On Demand this Thursday, with a limited release in most major cities slated for May 31st.)