Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DVD--The Ghost Writer

or: The Ghost who uncovers things.

One word to sum it up: Intriguing.

If I were to say 'Roman Polanski', people not so up with the film world (and his classics such as Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown) would probably only know one thing about him: that infamous rape scandal. In a way, that thing alone makes The Ghost Writer, his latest film, an even stronger one. You see, during the making of this film, he was put under arrest. He finished editing the film from a Swiss prison and continued making all the artistic decisions while he was under house arrest. And even though Polanski wasn't able to set foot in America due to extradition, he made this film look as American as it possibly could have been. With all these problems, Polanski managed to make a pretty flawless looking film, and perhaps one of the best films from last year.

It's based on Robert Harris' novel 'The Ghost', but it's also been called for the several similarities it has with the story of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. An unremarkable ghost-writer (Ewan McGregor) has landed a contract to shape the memoirs of Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), 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 that reveals how far he was ready to go in order to nurture UK's "special relationship" with the USA. But before this controversy has started, before even he has closed the deal with the publisher, the ghost-writer gets unmistakable signs that the draft he is tasked to put into shape mysteriously forms highly sensitive material.

I admit, political thrillers aren't really my cup of tea. When I see those words, it's like someone hit the snooze button in my brain. The Ghost Writer, on the flipside, gave my brain a good rattling. While it could be a bore for someone, I found this movie rich and intense, directed by a guy who knows how to make a good thriller. What makes me mad is the fact that this film was completely ignored come Oscar time. For example, Alexandre Desplat did a far better job with the music in this one, but he got all the acclaim for his work in The King's Speech. His music here contributed to an old-style kind of theme that makes this a suspense nearly in the league of Hitchcock. It's the kind of movie that will keep you guessing until the very end. And the tension just builds and builds. Slowly, but surely. The final shot, to me, is an absolute killer.

Leading the film is Ewan McGregor, who has had a spot in my heart since he was Christian in Moulin Rouge!...and what a great leading man he is. He plays a character simply known as 'The Ghost', but he anchors the film with his likability and vulnerability. And he was a far better choice for the role than Nicolas Cage. Pierce Brosnan made amends for his singing abilities in Mamma Mia! by playing the PM figure Adam Lang just the way a good actor should. Kim Cattrall takes a break from Sex and the City to do what she was born to do: be a good actress. It was strange seeing her in a dramatic role, but she did it well. Even if her American/Irish/Scottish/British accent was a little off the mark. The standout of the movie? Olivia Williams, by miles. Gosh, I loved her in this movie. She was so quietly horrible, and she just stole the show with her characterization and skill. She's the second biggest reason to watch this film after the all-round awesomeness that makes this film a definitive must-see.

THE VERDICT: The Ghost Writer is an excellently made thriller which is both intriguing and intense, with some great performances from it's cast and brilliant direction from Roman Polanski.

What I hoped for:

What I got:


  1. I loved this film...the story, the cast, the feel, the look, the music. I generally hate the whole CIA story, but in this film it was forgiven. I worship Polanski, and this was such a great comeback for the Polanski thriller.
    I've loved Ewan Mcgregor since Moulin Rouge too. He's such an underrated actor. I think he and Olivia Williams together were dynamic.
    I totally agree with Desplat's was so much better than TKS!! How that film infuriates me..
    I think this film was one of the biggest snubbings of last year.

  2. I'm glad you went back and checked this film out. One of my favorites of last year. It's been a while since I've seen this film this tense and suspenseful in theaters.

  3. Great post! and totally agree the movie seems like it would be a bore but its totally not, i really enjoyed this film.

  4. I thought this was a great film. The tension is well constructed, the score is very odd, and the performances are all pretty solid. Loved the way it ended. The truth just 'blowing away'. Part of a top quality group of films that played at the 2010 Sydney Film Festival. Nice review!

  5. Nikhat - I agree with you, it was one of the biggest snubbings of last year. It was just so awesome!

    James - It's become one of my favourite films from last year, too! Brilliance.

    Bluej - Thank you! I thought the same as you, but I wasn't at all bored!

    Andy - It was a great film. Gosh, that final shot was heaven for me. Thanks!

  6. Totally agree about Desplat's score. Very Bernard Herrmann! I also think it's interesting that you said you're noramlly bored by political thrillers, because when you actually examine what happens in THE GHOST WRITER, it seems like it should be boring. The tension is all theoretically quite low key (there's a car chase that only lasts two minutes, and happens at like 10 miles an hour, for example), but Polanski does a brilliant job, and turns it into one of the most thrilling films of the year

  7. That's what I was thinking. I mean, not a lot happens in the movie, but it's really thrilling and exciting. Polanski has a gift.


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