Roman Polanski's 'The Ghost Writer' bears the most in common with his recent 'The Ninth Gate'. The comparison starts this review as many others will inevitably find some comparison to be made with the director's work, especially since his personality looms so large.The plot has been described countless times and will be spared here. What instead fascinates is the depiction of Ewan McGregor as the nameless protagonist. He has no family, no real attachments so to speak, and no real drive. Like Johnny Depp's "book detective" in 'The Ninth Gate' his reason for existence seems to be to serve those higher in society. McGregor plays the party well, never completely convincing in one state or the other. Even when under duress his physical movements speak much more about his mental state than his mannerisms. This could be interpreted as Polanski's examination of apathy within larger society. What I mean by that is to say that it is through the Ghost's lack of interest that one can observe the world.Shot by Pawel Edelman, who has collaborated with Polanski in the past as well as with other heavyweight Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda, the images of 'The Ghost Writer' suggest a cool bleakness. Accompanied by a poetic score by the always reliable Alexandre Desplat the film suggests a constant looming menace, embodied by the rain of the New England island. The camera often remains static, sometimes zeroing in for reactions, but always showing a complete action through a singular movement or lack of movement. Often times the characters seem resigned to their fates. The roles each person plays in the story are very clearly defined. Former-PM Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), surrounded by his lackeys, anti-war protesters, etc. all seem just pieces of grander scale. Polanski's world view is so thoroughly and crisply represented through this visual style it is as if the individual events are not as important as the atmosphere in general.This is precisely why the film works, because of a director so in command of his craft. The film runs over 2 hours but every decision feels completely blocked and planned out. Every image carefully composed, every moment of information tightly plotted. 'The Ghost Writer' works terrifically by raising your blood level in this manner. Some will inevitably complain it makes the film seem merely serviceable when such expected plot twists occur. Yet I can think of few filmmakers so readily able to create such a vivid world and sustain it greatly. There are some pacing issues and the music can be overbearing. These are not unlike the problems facing Martin Scorsese's 'Shutter Island'. The talent of all involved makes the film exceed a workmanlike thriller even though the atmosphere on set was so mathematical.A very enjoyable, meticulous film that demands and rewards patience. Worth seeing.
This is a connoisseur's movie. It needs to be consumed slowly and deliberately to truly enjoy everything that has gone into it. Watch it carefully, there is a lot going on under the surface.Yes, it's a thriller, and as such parts of it are fast paced, but what it does so well is to misdirect your attention for a while before snapping you back to focus.There are no wasted words, nor gratuitous scenes in this movie. Just like a Hitchcock movie, the scenes are all necessary, even if they are symbolic.The acting is first rate, and I say that because much of the tension in the movie comes from the way the characters act, not special effects, not plot points hammered in over and over again.It is a very dark movie, and the darkness is nicely set off by humor and sarcasm in a few spots.
Ewan McGregor gets rid of every ounce of glamour and allows his Polanskian character to emerge. I though, a few years ago, Polanski could have played him himself the way he played so beautifully in "The Tenant" Those two characters are not that far apart. Taking over an apartment or a job from someone who leaves the scene under very mysterious circumstances is practically the same thing. McGregor, however, is superb. In "The Ghost Writer" events play close to the knuckle. Who is Pierce Brosnan? Tony Blair? and Olivia Williams? Classic film-making at its best. Compelling and visually stunning. The score by Alexander Desplat reminded me of Bernard Herrman and the atmosphere is so thick that the film's 2 hours plus fly by at an amazing speed. Polanski at 77 doesn't show any signs of jadedness. He is in total control. Hurrah for that!
The key word here is suspense, the perfect blend of a director at the peak of his powers, a script that beautifully works with a source without diluting its essence or compromising its subject matter, and with a timing so perfect that no false note is hit, enrapturing its audience, never letting go, pushing its limits as the audience awaits its incredible resolution.McGregor plays a hired writer who comes in to assist Lang (Brossnan) in the publication of his memoirs. Timing couldn't get worse as an unexpected complication ensues and many people's lives and reputations are suddenly in danger. As the film reaches its conclusion, with tensions and levels of paranoia reaching unheard limits, it's got our attention, and it has earned every bit of it.The quality of the writing is impressive, with no false moves, no red herrings, no unnecessary distractions, no manipulations to sway you one way or another. What we have is a mix of intrigue, action, Shakespearean drama, and performers who might never be this good again. Polanski channels Hitchcock at his best, using Desplat's driving score (himself channeling Herrman), and just when it all could have been a tribute, it soars above its inspiration.Among so many impressive elements, one has to mention the note perfect and outstanding Olivia Williams, an actress that has moved on from being physically alluring to developing acting talents which could rank her with Streep and Close because of her impeccable and powerful turn. Here is a woman who hardly resorts to gimmicks, but takes the most normal of situations and weaves a wave of intrigue that would leave you breathless."The Ghost Writer" is a mystery, a thriller, a tribute to the masters who inspired the genre and might even surpass all those sources of inspiration. The film mixes politics with an old fashion thrills and makes us wonder why Hollywood hasn't made movies like this more often. It's early in the year, but it's going to be hard to find anything that can even come close to this movie, a film that is as perfect as anything any director has ever put together, Hitchcock included.
I went in to see this film without any prior knowledge of what it was about. I kinda like that when I see a movie... I only knew that Ewan McGregor was in it and that was good enough a reason for me. The first two things that I noticed in this film was the cinematography and the score. I thought that the cinematography was beautiful and the settings were stunning. There was a reason why everything had a certain look about it. The opening music at the beginning was also another hint that something is quite off through the whole movie. This isn't going to be a run-of-the mill mystery story; this is so much more.Without giving away anything, there is so much to see and speculate on when you are introduced to the characters. I didn't realize until the very end of the film that you are never hinted as to ANYTHING about The Ghost. More than once I was going over in my head to try and remember what his character's name was, but to no avail. Ruth's character is something else completely compelling and curious. Truly brilliant characters in this story.I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who is looking to go see a truly amazing and cerebral film. It doesn't mess with your head in the way Shutter Island did, but it makes you think and it really leads you down every single road of the map, all at the same time.
No doubt Roman Polansky knows how to build a gripping movie, with craft and wit, in this case a political thriller, where references to Blair and Bush are no so much explicit, but subtle enough to be perceived somehow. Reviews underlined a style resembling Hitchcock: indeed, the story proceeds, creating suspense, thrill, without appealing to excessive action or shock, although never reaching Hitchcock's subtlety of insight and mystery, both in characters and situations. Mostly, the plot proves some loose ends as the craftily prepared intrigue seems to come to a hasty ending, leading to a finale which does not appear up to the great potential and high expectations of its previous development.Convincing and well-focused performances by the whole cast, especially by Ewan McGregor who keeps a high-level performance, never abusing his intriguing role, but thoroughly contained, Pierce Brosnan proves good in his part, although his past stereotyped roles make it difficult to see him credible as a former prime minister, Olivia Williams as his wife Ruth delivers a smart and talented performance. Quite interesting are some minor characters, such as the members of the service, or the old man living on the island, who enhance, despite or probably thanks to their more silent presence, the mysterious atmosphere of the story.
Polanski does some of his best work in a long time in this nearly-flawless and beautiful-looking film. Engaging story, interesting characters, incredible mood and sense of place (amazingly, locations in Germany substituted brilliantly for Martha's Vineyard -- having spent some time on the Vineyard, I was completely convinced that's what I was seeing, forgetting during the film that Polanski wouldn't have set foot on U.S. soil), more implied violence than any real screen violence (for those who like suspense but stay away from thrillers because of worry about violence, don't worry) -- it's all about suspense and intrigue. Every shot is gorgeous. Fun references to CHINATOWN, and especially Billy Wilder's SUNSET BOULEVARD. Lovely performances by Olivia Williams, who is sexy and vulnerable, Pierce Brosnan, the absolutely always brilliant Tom Wilkinson and an extraordinary cameo by Actors Studio legend Eli Wallach (he still has the chops!). The ending caps a perfect film perfectly, and the MacGuffin is great fun. If you like vintage Hitchcock, and especially if you like the best work of Polanski, don't miss it. I'm ready to see it again and watch how it's put together.
Polanski is a master of subtlety, grace, and wit. His eye creates breathtaking and beautiful shots. His ear adds a malevolent and demented humor to the score of a film. There is most always something unspeakable, indescribable beneath the surface of a Polanski film. Something unnerving about the tone but never overbearing, or pounding the audience over the head with it. This is certainly true of The Ghost Writer. What I found surprising, not being familiar with the novel on which it is based, was the political statement being made. Humorously portraying certain key figures in the political environment of the last decade. In any other hands, this could never have been done so believably and deftly. All the key performances are on target. And how could they not be. For Polanski knows how to work with actors and guide them in creating such memorable characters. Ewan McGregor certainly fits his role seamlessly as does Olivia Williams. So many could learn from Polanski how a thriller needs to be constructed in order to hold an audience to the very end. The word entertainment means to 'hold in between' which is what The Ghost Writer does from beginning to its haunting and inevitable conclusion.