James Marsh may be best known as the director of the Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire, about Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the Twin Towers, and Andrea Riseborough as the star who actually burnished her reputation by playing Wallis Simpson in Madonna's otherwise critically reviled W.E. But they've made something altogether different and wonderful together: the taut, off-your-guard psychological and political thriller Shadow Dancer.
Riseborough plays Colette, a young mother and IRA member in 1990's Belfast, carrying a guilty childhood memory that unfolds in the film's wrenching opening. When she is caught by MI-5, an agent -- played by Clive Owen as an enigmatic man with a conscience, not your usual secret agent -- gives her a choice: inform on the IRA or go to prison. Colette cooperates -- or does she? At the end she comes down unquestionably and dramatically on one side. As you'll see in my exclusive video interview with Marsh and Riseborough, I don't reveal which side, but I obviously have a lower threshold for calling "spoiler alert" than they do. (You can find my one-on-one interview with Clive Owen here.)
You'll also see that they are both terrifically articulate and thoughtful -- not always the case with a director and star out to sell a movie. Riseborough talks about the importance of the look in her character's eyes; both she and Marsh use silence to great effect. And Marsh, talking about the political violence of the 90's, recalls that it was not limited to Ireland, but extended to the entire UK, a "malignant, intractable conflict" always in the background.
Politics has rarely been as personal as it is for Colette, which makes Shadow Dancer an astute and powerful emotional drama about loyalty and betrayal, a film I highly recommend.
Here's what the director and star had to say.