17 March 2010

Review: "The Ghost Writer"

You may have seen Roman Polanski's name in the news lately and his most recent film, The Ghost Writer, has opened in major cities without much press. It is not without talent, the film stars Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan, with Kim Cattrall and Tom Wilkinson in supporting roles. Most people may know Roman Polanski for his personal struggles, but his early films include Rosemary's Baby (the 1968 horror film that helped launch Mia Farrow's career) and Chinatown (the 1974 film that is widely considered a standard in the film noir genre). More recently he directed The Pianist (2002), which won Adrien Brody an Academy Award for Best Actor. The Ghost Writer is based off a 2007 novel written by Robert Harris and was adapted by Harris and Polasnki. The film premiered in February 2010 at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival where Roman Polanski was awarded the Silver Bear award for Best Director. The Ghost Writer is a thriller that unfolds itself very deliberately, almost painfully slow. It is an interesting film that is almost ruined by the slow pacing during the first act.

Ewan McGregor stars as an English ghostwriter who has been hired to finish ghostwriting the memoirs of former British Primer Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnon). The original ghostwriter has died and the manuscript may only be viewed at Lang's home, on an island off the coast of Massachusetts. Lang's personal assistant, Amelia (Kim Cattrall) controls access to the manuscript and it is apparent her relationship with her boss is more intimate. Their relationship does not go unnoticed by his wife Ruth (Olivia Williams), who often appears cold and hostile. Soon after arriving on the island it is revealed that the International Criminal Court in The Hague has began investigating Lang for war crimes. The new controversy surrounding Lang leads the new ghostwriter to some startling revelations which put Lang's entire career into question.

The Ghost Writer is a film worth seeing, though it is probably best viewed from the comfort of one's home. I really enjoyed the style of the film, and I feel that the bleak colours on screen added to the tension. The acting was mostly very good, although I do not understand why Kim Cattrall was cast in a dramatic role. She seemed very out of place and her accent was frustrating (is it fair for her Wikipedia to consider her an English actress when she moved to Canada at a young age?). Roger Ebert raised an interesting point in his four-star review of the film. He said: "The Ghost Writer is handsome, smooth, persuasive. [...] Polanski at 76 provides a reminder of directors of the past who were raised on craft, not gimmicks, and depended on a deliberate rhythm of editing rather than mindless cutting." I completely agree, and if the beginning of the film had been crisper and more succinct I would have loved The Ghost Writer, instead it is only a film that I enjoyed.

My rating: 3 stars out of 4.

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