10 October, 2010

The Ghost Writer (2010)

Written off

Official Selection, European Film Awards 2010

One can but hope that, while the ‘story behind the story’ concerning the sexual crimes of Roman Polanski, the director of The Ghost Writer (2010) has once again faded from view, the same will never occur concerning the fact that the film’s Adam Lang, a UK former prime minister, is in no way intended to resemble one Tony Blair. For the benefit of our American readers, that last sentence was an example of 'irony'. I thank you.

There’s no doubt that, on the strength of The Ghost Writer, Polanski is still very much a class act. Despite his very ocassional slip-ups (such as, perhaps, The Ninth Gate (1999)), there has always been a rare expectancy to each of the films from the man behind Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Chinatown (1974), much as there always was with the work of Stanley Kubrick.

Adapted for the screen by the author of The Ghost, Robert Harris, this silky smooth, slow-burning examination of just how dangerous politics can get is a perfect foil to your run-of-the-mill, facile conspiracy-theory thriller – a ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) labelled only as ‘The Ghost’ in the credits lands the plum gig of knocking the memoirs of UK former prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) into shape. A smooth operator, Lang, who held sway over British politics for many years before retiring with his beautiful wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) to a luxurious, isolated and heavily guarded retreat in the US, nevertheless becomes embroiled in scandal concerning revelations as to just how far he was prepared to go to keep it chummy with Uncle Sam. Any of this ringing any bells yet, hmmm? Anyway, things threaten to get much, much worse for The Ghost, as he gradually realizes that the convoluted mess of a manuscript on which he is working may well contain life-threatening indiscretions…

What makes this such a joy, I believe, is how well the two central characterizations by McGregor and Brosnan hang together – the former, a cynical hack coming to realize that there are consequences to actions and the latter a Machiavellian prince of darkness who has known this for a long time – and the performances of both reveal a maturity and intelligence that have not always been so evident in either actor’s work.

In addition, Polanski’s passion for revealing the darkness at the heart of humanity is more than amply expounded here and the kicker, when it comes, will hit you, well, like a hit-and-run. Thrillers can still be made that do not insult the intelligence – allow The Ghost Writer (2010) to convince you.

Awards: Click here for details.

128 mins.

No comments: