Shadow Dancer, Real Steel, Evil Dead: films on TV today

Andrea Riseborough is stuck between a rock and a hard place, Hugh Jackman is in the fight game with a difference, and five friends go down to the woods . . . again: the RadioTimes team’s pick of free-to-air films on TV today

Shadow Dancer ★★★★
PREMIERE 10.00-11.35pm BBC2 


British director James Marsh has gone far since his early days making BBC documentaries. His life changed with the Oscar (among other accolades) for Man on Wire, his compelling feature-length film about the 1974 World Trade Center tightrope walk by Philippe Petit. But his future lay in dramatic fiction, and Shadow Dancer established him in this field, a taut, overcast, unyielding, early-90s-set thriller about an IRA activist (Andrea Riseborough) who turns MI5 informant to protect her son. Adapted by ITV political editor (and Northern Ireland reporter) Tom Bradby from his own novel, it places a nailbiting Spooks-style plot in the more emotional territory of family loyalty, as Riseborough is forced to spy on her own brothers. Clive Owen attains three dimensions in the role of her handler (not a given) while Gillian Anderson gets some practice in for BBC2’s The Fall as an austere high-up. And now Marsh’s latest piece, The Theory of Everything, has five Oscar nominations. Good luck to him.

Real Steel ★★
PREMIERE 6.00-8.00pm BBC2 

First time on Freeview for this sci-fi tale about a down-on-his luck robot boxing (yeah I know, boxing robots!) promoter (Hugh Jackman) who gets a new go at success and an opportunity to clear his debts when his young son persuades him to take on an old sparring machine he finds in a scrapyard. There’s probably stuff about bonding and life lessons, but hey, there’s boxing robots. What’s not to like?

The Darkest Hour ★★
PREMIERE 10.00-11.45pm C5

Alien invasion is enough to put a dent in anyone’s day, but when the aliens are invisible, whaddayagonna do? Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella play software designers working in Moscow who have to fight for their lives when the visitors start trashing the place in this sci-fi yarn that’s on Freeview for the first time.

Evil Dead ★★★★
PREMIERE 11.05pm-12.55am C4 

So there are five friends (one of them a drug addict) and they go to an isolated cabin deep in the woods . . .  look, you can probably take it from here, but just to say this reboot of Sam Raimi’s horror classic is far from a predictable, inferior remake and contains some neat tricks all of its own. When one of the group starts quoting from an ancient book of the dead (always guaranteed to break the ice at parties) it unleashes all sorts of nasty forces with blood-splattered consequences.

Shoah ★★★★★
7.00-11.25pm BBC4


A sobering and chilling documentary that over its nine hour length (second part next Sunday) brings home the full horror of the Holocaust through interviews with the few that survived and those that carried out the atrocities.