Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Ghost Writer

By Sati. Sunday, October 9, 2011 , , , , , ,
(128 min, 2010)
Director: Roman Polanski
Writers: Robert Harris (screenplay), Roman Polanski (screenplay)
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams

I'm your Ghost.

An unremarkable ghost-writer (Ewan McGregor) has landed a lucrative contract to redact the memoirs of Adam Lang (Pierce Brosman), the former UK Prime Minister. After dominating British politics for years, Lang has retired with his wife (Olivia Williams) to the USA. He lives on an island, in luxurious, isolated premises complete with a security detail and a secretarial staff. Soon, Adam Lang gets embroiled in a major scandal with international ramifications that reveals how far he was ready to go in order to nurture UK's "special relationship" with the USA.

This is the latest movie by Roman Polanski, so I guess it's getting a lot of attention because of director's personal matters. Now, as much I'd love to see him in jail, this is a very good movie despite the incredibly contrived script filled with holes so big, I'm not even attempting to figure out the entire story. It's based on a novel and Adam Lang's character is based on Tony Blair – there are a lot of similarities and I had a lot of fun watching this, remembering such a different take on Blair Michael Sheen presented in “The Queen”.

The characters are well developed – despite the fact we don't know much about the writer, we don't even know his name, we sympathize with him, because from the very beginning we sense something is not right with entire case and Prime Minister is hiding something. The previous ghost writer turns out dead on the shore, facts don't add up and Lang is under investigation for giving alleged orders of torture. The intrigue circles around four characters – The Ghost, Lang, his wife Ruth and his mistress and assistant Amelia. I liked how all the events were contained on the island, it helped to build up a suspense.

The story is easy to follow, because the events are shown from the Ghost perspective. However the details put together are incredibly confusing The story lacks consequence, the characters lack motives and by the end of the movie we don't really know what happened and why. But because of the great atmosphere, built mostly out of hostile, stormy weather, gray surroundings and suspenseful but as always magical score by Alexandre Desplat, the movie is very entertaining and the mystery keeps you watching. You keep waiting for big reveal and great ending, and whilst the movie has great ending the reveal....well it is big, but you don't really know what to make out of all of this.

Despite the fact the last actions by the Ghost and entire ending scene didn't make a lot of sense for me and were left annoyingly ambiguous, the last two sequences are brilliantly executed – the cinematography, acting and as much as I hate to write this, director's job made it one of the best endings I've seen so far this year. It was chilling and impressive.

The actors do good job with one exception – Amelia is played by Kim Cattrall from “Sex and the City” - I have no idea why Polanski chose her, her fake British accent was absolutely awful and she kept distracting me from the plot only with her presence. McGregor is good and was a great choice for the part, I read it was originally meant for Hugh Grant, so it's a good thing Ewan got it. Brosman is excellent, although he was less in the movie than I thought he would be, but the best performance is given by Olivia Williams (from “The Sixth Sense” and “An Education” ) as Lang's wife Ruth, brilliantly written character – she is perfect in the role and steals the show every time she's on screen. The movie also features small appearance by Tom Wilkson.
This is a rare thing when movie has a weak script and still manages to be a great one. There are good twists, mysteries and suspenseful scenes in “The Ghost Writer” but if you will attempt to figure out the whole thing you will either see this cannot be done or you'll be left with “So what?” question. But the movie is still one of the best thrillers I saw this year and it was certainly much better than “Shutter Island” (both movies take place on the island, both are made by famous directors, both portray man surrounded by menacing people) - you don't need visually stunning sequences, soundtrack written as if it was Armageddon not a thriller and aggressive editing (Polanski edited “The Ghost Writer” in prison cell and it's still million times better!) to create thrilling movie. Scorsese doesn't know it – Polanski does.


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