Shadow Dancer (Blu-ray) (2012)

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Released 23-Apr-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 101:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By James Marsh

Eagle Entertainment
Starring Barry Barnes
Maria Laird
Ben Smyth
Brid Brennan
Jamie Scott
Bradley Burke
Andrea Riseborough
Daniel Tatarsky
Tom Bennett
Nia Gwynne
Jason Stalkey
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Dickon Hinchliffe

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     British filmmaker James Marsh is best known for his documentary works, including the recent Project Nim and the Oscar winning Man on Wire. He applies some of the same cool documentarian eye to the recent feature film, Shadow Dancer, a slow burn psychological thriller set amongst the Irish Troubles in the early 90s.

     Colette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough) belongs to a family with strong IRA sympathies. In the early 70s she watched as her young brother was carried back from a routine shopping trip dying of bullet wounds. 20 years later and she and her two brothers Gerry (Aidan Gillan Littlefinger from Game of Thrones) and Connor (Domhnall Gleeson the eldest Weasley brother in the last Harry Potter films) are all deeply committed to the cause under the mildly reproving gaze of Ma (Brid Brennan).

     Colette is in London in 1993 charged with the task of placing a bomb in the subway system. She messes up and doesn't even set the timer. Little did she know that her entire activities were under the watchful eye of MI5 and she is taken into custody. Special Agent Mac (Clive Owen) gives her a simple choice. She is to act as an informant for MI5 or spend 25 years in an English jail whilst her young son grows up not knowing his mother. Eventually, reluctantly, she agrees.

     Returning to Ireland she comes under the watchful eye of the local IRA leader Kevin (David Wilmot) who finds the ease with which she escaped the scene of the failed bombing a little bit hard to accept. Sceptical of the ongoing peace talks in Northern Ireland he is determined to root out the informant that he knows to be undermining their efforts in the region.

     Mac was specifically ordered by his boss (Gillian Anderson) to recruit Colette but paranoia sets in when he discovers that there are machinations going on in the background with he and Colette seemingly just pawns in a much bigger game.

     Shadow Dancer is an intriguing thriller. Director Marsh, working from the novel and script by Tom Bradby creates a film of often unrelieved tension. Colette is a woman impossibly split between her beliefs and upbringing and the possibility of a future without her child. Riseborough, last seen as Wallis Simpson in Madonna's WE, puts in a strong performance as the conflicted woman and she is well matched by Clive Owen as the man who is dedicated to the cause but equally dedicated to keeping his promises to his informants.

     The film makes very few concessions to those with no understanding of the Troubles and will probably be best enjoyed by those who like their spy films tense and cold like the recent Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

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Transfer Quality


     Shadow Dancer was shot on 35mm film and projected in the cinema at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

     The Blu-ray case for this release describes it as having a 16×9 2.35:1 transfer. It does not. It is a 1.85:1 (actually closer to 1.81:1) transfer which obviously has some differences from the cinema version. It is difficult to know where this cropped transfer has originated. It may have been for cable television or airline viewing.

     The transfer itself is fairly decent although Marsh and cinematographer Rob Hardy worked hard to create an early 90s look. In this case the lighting is fairly diffuse creating a slightly overexposed look to the film. This can play havoc with compression however the film looks decent throughout.

     The colours are somewhat muted though stable. The flesh tones are accurate.

     There are no technical problems with the film.

    There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Shadow Dancer carries two English-language soundtracks. One is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and the other a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track.

     As might be expected the high-definition sound track gives greater depth and clarity throughout.

     As said above there are no subtitles for this film. This is at times a major problem. With the exception of a couple of the Brits all the main characters speak with strong Northern Ireland accents. Sometimes that can make it very difficult to determine what is being said. For a film that relies upon whispers and intricate dialogue it is a disappointing problem.

     The surround sound is not used greatly throughout the film and the sub-woofer is likewise engaged rarely. That is not a criticism, however, but rather a reflection of the type of film.

     Music is by former Tindersticks lead Dickon Hinchliffe who brings his continuing prowess as a film score composer to bear creating a perfect accompaniment to the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras with this release.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

  The Region B UK release has the film in the correct ratio, together with subtitles an audio commentary and a very short making of featurette. Any guesses which is the best version for fans?



    Shadow Dancer is probably a better film than this release allows. It would have been nice to see it in the correct aspect ratio and also to have the benefit of subtitles. Nevertheless fans of spy thrillers will get a serious buzz about the complex and taut plot and character development.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, July 05, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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