Tuesday, 10 August 2010
FILM REVIEW: THE GHOST WRITER
The first clue that the handsomely rewarding writing job which the ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) is being offered – to write the memoirs of recently retired and now disgraced UK Prime Minster, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) – may not be a straightforward writing gig? The body of his predecessor having just washed up dead on a beach near the American home of his intended subject. That revelation opens Roman Polanski’s film, based on the bestseller by Robert Harris, and I was hooked from then on.
As a writer needs to eat (trust me, we do!), the ghost (he is never given a name) accepts the job and flown to said house; a glass and steel structure sitting on the coast, constantly buffeted by wind and rain and occupied by Lang, his wife Ruth (Olivia Williams), Lang’s PA (Kim Cattrall), a housekeeper and some security staff. The ghost, while not exactly a prisoner, cannot venture far: the all-but completed manuscript must never leave the study.
McGregor gives one of his best performances in quite some time, as it slowly dawns on his character that not everything is as it seems and he may be in over his head. And Brosnan, continuing to flourish in his post-Bond career, gives an impressive turn as the charismatic former PM whose political career appears to have been more style than substance. His wife, an excellent Williams who plays the by turns frosty then friendly Mrs Lang, was obviously the brains behind the man.
Harris based the character of Lang on actual former UK PM, Tony Blair, but Brosnan plays him with a swagger that was never even suggested in Michael Sheen’s recent spot-on portrayals (in The Queen, The Special Relationship).
The Ghost Writer is a top notch thriller which relies on suspense rather than action to keep you riveted. Yes there are some guns and a chase scene or two, but Polanski opts to channel Alfred Hitchcock rather than subscribe to today’s fast edit, handy-cam school of thriller making.
Polanski effectively uses mood and score to suggest a constant threat of danger to the ghost and to keep you on the edge of your seat. But there’s a also a vein of dark humour running through the film, proof that Polanski is having as much fun as one suspects.
He is in full control of every element and working near the height of his filmmaking powers, making for what is easily one of the best films of 2010.