Monday, July 26, 2010

The Ghost Writer (2010)

Movie quotes:
Ruth: Well, how bad is it?
The Ghost: You haven’t read it?
Ruth: Not all of it.
The Ghost: Well, let’s just say it needs some work.
Ruth: How much work?
The Ghost: Well, all the words are there; they’re just in the wrong order.

Ruth: Are you married?
The Ghost: Certainly not.
Ruth: Gay?
The Ghost: No.
Ruth: Did you have a -
The Ghost: I had a – a – a -
Ruth: What? Girlfriend?
The Ghost: Well a bit more than that.
Ruth: Partner?
The Ghost: A bit less than that. I don’t know, 40 thousand years of English language and there’s no word to describe our relationship. It was doomed.

The Ghost: Did you ever want to be a proper politician in your own right?
Ruth: Of course. Didn’t you want to be a proper writer?

At a glance:
Roman Polanski’s lyrical thriller shows why he is a master at creating beautiful, artistic films, where perhaps the beauty and flow always overshadows the plot

Our review (with spoilers):
A fat paycheck for a month of intense writing is enough to lure a ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) to take a job writing the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). The Ghost (whose real name, by the way, is never revealed throughout the film – a fitting touch) takes the assignment despite the fact that he is replacing Lang’s former ghoster, who committed suicide. But the job gets more complicated almost immediately, as Lang stands accused of facilitating the arrest and torture of four British citizens. The Ghost travels to the USA and tries to work amid the conflicts caused by Lang and his eccentric entourage, including the prime minister’s volatile and complex wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams). Director Roman Polanski gently stamps this film as his own. He graces the film with a lyrical quality not normally seen in thrillers (but for another example of his ability to accomplish this, watch Frantic some time). He also slowly, almost inscrutably builds the tension and rewards patient viewers (although there are some fairly obvious plot holes, and there was a slight derailment for me when I figured out the fairly obvious ‘twist’ with about 20 minutes to go). While McGregor, Williams, and Brosnan anchor the film (especially the byplay between The Ghost and Rush), Polanski also cares about the small details and small but consequential roles; he milks compact and effective performances from Kim Cattrall and Jim Belushi. And of course it is great to see the legendary Eli Wallach, now 95 years old, still working.

Rating: 3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Polanski polishes the lackluster material and his impeccable style creates the illusion of suspense where our steady pulse tells us there is none."
- Damon Smith (Scotsman)

"Polanski's fiendishly clever and extremely subtle touch is in every frame."
- Rich Cline (Shadows on the Wall)