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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Ghost Writer

AndyO review: * * * 1/2

Metacritic: 77/100 (Generally favorable reviews)

They don't make them like this anymore. Roman Polanski's simmering, claustrophobic thriller evokes some of the best 70s films (like Polanski's own Chinatown) in a modern framework. In these days of explosions and IMAX 3-D films, it's refreshing to see a master filmmaker at work.

Here's how the film opens: A ferry boat docks. Car engines start. Cars begin to drive off the boat, but then we see there's one car that's not moving, a BMW SUV. The owner hasn't returned to his car. Cars drive around the empty BMW. Soon a tow truck arrives and tows the car off the boat.

In this first scene, Polanski conjures his story without a word of dialogue. We learn that the car was driven by a writer who was ghost writing the biography of an ex-Prime Minister of England (Pierce Brosnan).

Then a new ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) is hired and shipped off to Martha's Vineyard by the publisher to work with the Prime Minister. After the Ghost arrives (the writer is never referred to by name), the Prime Minister is accused of war crimes, and everything starts to unravel. McGregor's ghost writer is trying to find out what happened to the first -- and, at the same time, is trying to find out who the Prime Minister really is.

This film is full of so many great performances by McGregor and Brosnon, but also Kim Cattrall as Amelia Bly, the Prime Minister's assistant, and Olivia Williams as Ruth Lang, the Prime Minister's wife.

But what I really came away with was respect for the way Polanski let the scenes breathe. Nothing is rushed. Watch the sequence where the Ghost takes the BMW SUV for a ride and the GPS becomes a plot device.

The only criticism have is the ending, which I won't spoil. I wish that Polanski would have thought this through with the same level of detail that he did with the rest of the film. Let's just say that it has the same effect as a character waking up at the end and saying, "Oh, it was all a dream."


posted by AndyO @ 7:51 PM   0 comments