Monday, March 12, 2012

The Ghost Writer

Movie Review : The Ghost Writer
Director : Roman Polanski
Genre : Mystery / Thriller
Staring : Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams
Released : 2010
My Rating : 7 out of 10

When The Ghost Writer finished, a lot of small details came back to me - oh that's why that character did this or said that. Those small realizations made the movie worth the time. In spite of the outlandish premise, few convenient coincidences and at least one "oh, come on" moment.

Based on a novel, The Ghost by Robert Harris - which I haven't read - this is a genuine mystery movie. Very little action, no smart alec one liners, just a focused plot that lets the viewers connect the dots.

Retired British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) is writing his autobiography. When his ghostwriter is found dead, another writer (Ewan McGregor) is hired in a hurry. We never learn his name ! My guess of the novel being told in first person was correct. When this new ghostwriter arrives, he finds himself in a tricky situation. Lang's marriage is breaking and at the same time, he is being charged for torturing suspected terrorists. As our protagonist tries to work hard given the circumstances, his investigation puts his life in danger.

Most of the story happens from the point of view of the ghostwriter. We know what he knows. That's how a good mystery should be. But it poses a tough challenge for the actor to carry the entire movie. Ewan McGregor is a perfect choice for this role. The ghostwriter wasn't that keen on taking this assignment, it's just thrust onto him. He slowly gets interested in finding the truth. In his typical style, Ewan McGregor underplays it well.

It's obvious that Adam Lang is loosely based on Tony Blair, with enough references to Iraq war and supporting USA. It's possible that your political views may distract you from the story. For me, it didn't matter at all. In any case, Pierce Brosnan does a superb job with the limited screen time. He has really moved beyond James Bond, proving how good he is as an actor. See Seraphim Falls as an example.

Olivia Williams, perhaps gives the best performance of the movie. A bitter wife, with ambitions of her own.

Another great performance - so to speak - is how and where the movie is shot. The location is absolutely perfect. Serene, posh and lonely. Maybe a bit scary too. It's worth watching just for this aspect, which has a sizable impact on the impression of the movie.

I know some of you might be turned off because the director is Roman Polanski. In spite of all his troubles, and personal flaws, he has definitely produced good movies. This is not his best, but it's quite good.

In case you are wondering - and I won't give any spoilers - the "oh, come on" moment for me was when someone uses Google search to connect the dots. Really, if this information was publicly available then why did no one else made good use of it ? Well, it's a movie, so let's just leave it at that.

As you can see, the movie has some flaws. Almost all thrillers seem to have some. It's still lot of fun and worth watching, and gets my recommendation. This maybe OK for older kids, if they like reading mystery/thriller/intrigue type of novels.

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