The Ghost Writer Review
Roman Polanski’s ‘The Ghost Writer’ is a well made slow but steady suspense film. It evokes Hitchcock even more so than Scorsese’s Shutter Island. Scorsese felt that he had to keep the camera on the grotesqueries, where Polanski never panders. This is an adult movie (and no Matt, I don’t mean porn) and you’re actually required to pay attention. Like Scorsese, Polanski makes use of foreshadowing and visual imagery to allude to ‘waht comes later’. My favorite was a painting in Adam Lang’s office that was strategically placed to signal one particular character’s fate.
Ewan McGregor has often picked interesting movies and this is one of those. Here MacGregor is the ‘everyman’ who finds more trouble with every secret he uncovers doing his job. He plays a ‘ghost writer’ ( a writer brought in to write with credit being given to another) who is unnamed throughout. He is brought in to finish the biography of a British Prime Minister Adam Lang (played by Pierce Brosnan) when the previous ghost writer turns up drowned . As is usual in most Polanski films there is something ovbviously wrong with the situation that MacGregor’s writer finds himself in. From the beginning he has a sense that something is amiss. Lang and possibly everyone around him have secrets to hide.
There’s no reason to give away any more than that. Polanski, like Scorsese knows how to make a film and doesn’t have to rely on FX or elaborately choreographed action scenes to tell a good story. With the Ghost Writer he embraces wholeheartedly the filmmaking philosophy of Hitchcock, that is visually showing the story instead of telling the story through dialogue. The whole movie is dark and grey and wet. The visuals are moody if not somewhat downbeat.Polanski has always kind of winked at the audience with a slightly peculiar sense of humor, though and he does that here. I could see him laughing at the film’s last frame before going to black. The soundtrack’s main theme helped to underscore the odd tone throughout. I think even a phone’s ringtone plays the same tune at one point in the film (could be wrong about that).
Polanski also gets the best out of his actors. I was actually surprised by the variety of actors and actresses that were in this film. As said already, Brosnan plays Lang the Prime Minister, and surprising ly (to me) was as un-Pierce Brosnan-like as I’ve seen him in a film.
Olivia Williams plays Lang’s discontented wife. She always brings weight to her film roles. So does Tom Wilkinson who I doubt could give a poor acting performance.
But when Kim Catrell popped up, it took me a minute to realize who she was because of the accent. Believable, too. I’ve always seen her as an actress that played the same internally uncomplicated character. Granted I haven’t seen her in a film since Star Trek 6 (1991?), but I think this was her best film role that I’ve seen (Big Trouble In Little China would be my favorite Kim Catrell role, though).
Jim Belushi even… wait… JIM BELUSHI WAS IN THIS! K-9 Cop… Blues Brothers 2000, The Man With One Red Shoe… The Principal…even Red Heat… Not good films. Watchable granted, but still dumb. I don’t think he’s ever even been IN a good movie. And HE was good! He didn’t play Jim Belushi in this (and nothing wrong with Jim Belushi). He was a character I haven’t seen before. I have to think the performances were prompted by Polanski. That’s what great directors do, I guess.
I have to say that the highlight for me was an appearance by the always memorable Eli Wallach. I think the end titles said something like ‘And Participation By: Eli Wallach’ or some such. He’s coming up on the century mark and still a great actor. That makes me very happy.
The movie has one or 2 lapses of logic for story convenience, but I’m fine with that. It throws in a little political rhetoric, also, but I don’t think it’s really important to the point of the movie. It’s still the best 2010 release that I’ve seen. Polanski really is one of the better directors alive and without having thought about a list, I would say he would have to be in my list of Top 10 Directors. WIth that said… Take responsibility for your actions, Roman.
Anyway… 4 out of 5 whatevers and a good movie worth seeing.