June 12 2013 03:57 PM

James Marsh's political drama, starring the great Andrea Riseborough, leads our rundown of all the movies screening around town

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Shadow Dancer
Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Andrea Riseborough steals every frame of Shadow Dancer, director James Marsh's superbly crafted political potboiler set in 1993 during the tumultuous final stages of the English / Irish conflict. As Colette, a dedicated mother and conflicted IRA operative forced to turn informant on her plotting brothers, Riseborough gives an astoundingly detailed performance of a woman forced to constantly adapt within a perpetual state of distress. Every one of her tormented decisions causes ripples that complicate the film's themes of generational trauma and sacrifice. 

Not surprisingly, Colette's loyalties are tested at every turn, giving the film a complex human center to complement its sustained tension. 

Known primarily for his documentaries Man on Wire and Project Nim, Marsh's probing style feels right at home in grittier genre fare like Shadow Dancer. Instead of resorting to a handheld style to create feelings of anxiety, Marsh's camera waits patiently for characters to react within stressful situations. There's no better example than an early wordless sequence that closely follows Colette on a London underground train. Here, it seems Marsh is more interested in observing his characters than judging them. The approach allows the actors to express emotions almost entirely through their eyes, a welcome motif for a sometimes plot-driven film awash in political assassinations, corrupt secret agents and procedural jargon. 

Co-starring Clive Owen as Colette's well-meaning but ultimately misguided English handler, Shadow Dancer—opening Friday, June 14, at Hillcrest Cinemas—jumps between multiple stories with excellent precision. It's a film of sustained pressure and split-second choices that consistently surprises despite the familiar genre set-up. Through Colette's eyes, Marsh produces a vivid and brutal cinematic view of a divisive moment in history where life-and-death maneuvering was a perfected art form.

Write to glennh@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com.

Opening

Becoming Traviata: In this documentary based on the staging of Verdi's masterwork at the Aix-en-Provence festival in France, Grammy Award winner Natalie Dessay prepares to take on the challenging role of Violetta. Screens at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park June 15, 16 and 18. 

The East: Brit Marling leads an impressive cast of indie-film regulars, including Ellen Paige and Alexander Skarsgård, in this story about a covert eco-terrorist group aiming for high-profile corporate targets.

Greetings From Tim Buckley: Jeff Buckley (Gossip Girl's Penn Badgely) makes his musical debut at a Brooklyn tribute concert for his once-infamous father-musician in this tender coming-of-age story. Screens for one week at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.

Man of Steel: Director Zach Snyder (300, Watchmen) attempts yet another reboot of the Superman origin story with Henry Cavill sporting the famous tights and Amy Adams cracking wise as Lois Lane. See our review on Page 22.

Hey Bartender: Craft cocktails, anyone? This documentary follows multiple bartenders on their quest to reinvent an entire industry with spiritual creativity. Screens for one week at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas. 

Pandora's Promise: Robert Stone's controversial new documentary deals head on with our current energy crisis by focusing on a mosaic of talking heads and alarming stats. Screens for one week at the Ken Cinema.

Shadow Dancer: Andrea Riseborough stars as an IRA operative forced to choose between survival and loyalty in James Marsh's political thriller, which co-stars Clive Owen.

This is the End: It's the end of the world as we know it, and the Judd Apatow reunion tour feels just fine. Directed by Seth Rogen, this comedy apocalypse is sure to include multiple plumes of ganja smoke. 

One Time Only

Spirit of the Marathon II: This documentary, about runners preparing for the 2012 marathon in Rome, screens at several area theaters at 7 p.m.  Wednesday, June 12. Check fathomevents.com for details.

Viewer's Choice: The poolside moviegoer selects what you see tonight. The surprise is unveiled at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. 

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension: Get your '80s on with this rambunctious and idiosyncratic action comedy that follows a rock musician on his quest to defeat alien invaders. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 13, at Whistle Stop Bar in South Park. 

Rebel without a Cause: James Dean became an icon in Nicholas Ray's timeless tale of teenage rebellion and fast cars, co-starring Natalie Wood. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, June 13 and 14, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.

Gut: A mysterious VHS tape dismantles a man's life in this terrifying hit from the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival. Presented by The Film Geeks at Digital Gym Cinema, 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 14 and 15, with Director Q/A.

Rocky Horror Picture Show: Get crazy with young honeymooners Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon as Tim Curry's maniacal Dr. Frank-N-Furter terrorizes them with glee. Screens at midnight Saturday, June 15, at the Ken Cinema. 

Goldfinger: Arguably the greatest James Bond film showcases Sean Connery at his most debonair and a truly evil villain with a penchant for inventive laser torture. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 15 and 16, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.

Alien: The Director's Cut: Relive the nasty horror of Ridley Scott's landmark science-fiction film, starring Sigourney Weaver, on the big screen. Screens at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, June 16, at Arclight La Jolla. 

Whirlpool: In the mood for noir? Otto Preminger's devious slice of moral deceit promises lots of bad decisions all around. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 18, at the Hervey Branch Library in Point Loma. 

Carnival of Souls: Ghostly apparitions, surrealistic dream sequences and disorienting visuals make this one of the all-time-great horror films. Don't miss out on the madness. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, at Scripps Ranch Library. 

Me, Myself, and Irene: This wild Farrelly Brothers romp stars Jim Carrey as a well-meaning cop with an identity disorder attempting to save Renée Zellweger's damsel in distress. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.

Office Space: Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta! Watch the disillusioned Initech boys wax wise while drinking a cold one at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 19.

Now Playing

Fill the Void: An 18-year-old Orthodox woman in Tel Aviv sees her imminent arranged marriage fall to pieces when her older sister dies during childbirth.

The Internship: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson try to re-train themselves in the digital age with a Google internship. Prepare yourself for Lewinsky jokes.

The Kings of Summer: Three teenage boys, sick to tears of their parents, build a house in the woods and run away for the summer. 

The Purge: In the not-too-distant future, the government declares all crime legal for a 12-hour period, hoping to thin the herd of humanity. That's too bad for married couple Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, who, along with their children, are taken hostage by some seriously bad guys.

Violet & Daisy: Teenage assassins Alexis Bledel and Saoirse Ronan are in over their heads when they accept a contract on James Gandolfini.

Violeta Went to Heaven: This Chilean biopic, about singer Violeta Parra, which originally played the San Diego Latino Film Festival, ends June 13 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks: This look at Julian Assange and Bradley Manning is put together by Alex Gibney, the Oscar-winning director who's made docs such as Taxi to the Dark Side and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Ends June 13 at Hillcrest Cinemas.

Wish You Were Here: Joel Edgerton stars in this smart, well-told Aussie drama about a vacation gone seriously wrong. Ends June 13 at the Ken Cinema. 

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: Bollywood rom-com about a couple who meet when they're just out of college and then reconnects several years later. 

After Earth: In M. Knight Shyamalan's movie, it's 1,000 years since humanity was forced off of Earth. Now, a father (Will Smith) and son (his son Jaden) are forced to return, as the son has to undergo a dangerous journey to save the father. 

Before Midnight: Almost two decades after Richard Linklater teamed up with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy on the romantic fantasy Before Sunrise, the trio comes together for the final film of the trilogy. Jessie and Celine aren't as young as they used to be, and that makes it the best of all of them.

Now You See Me: Four illusionists—Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco—pull off amazing heists against the 1 percent and give the money to the rest of us. 

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