The Ghost Writer
It felt really good getting to sucked into another one of Roman Polanski’s complicated and dangerously mysterious worlds. His most recent work is, absolutely, interesting. There was The Pianist of course, Polanski’s take on the Holocaust. There was the really weird one where Johnny Depp had sex with Satan or something. But his lastest film, The Ghost Writer felt more like Chinatown, and I say that in a good way.
This psychological thriller centers around a man only referred to as The Ghost (Ewan McGregor), as he’s hired to write the memoirs of Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), former prime minister of England. Lang received a $10 million dollar advance for his book, and the man originally hired to write it has mysteriously died. McGregor is brought in just at a time when the resigned prime minister is starting to be accused by the International Criminal Court of war crimes (the same waterboarding and torture stuff from the Afghan and Iraqi wars we’ve been hearing about for years). McGregor finds that there’s much more to the stories his predecessor scribbled out, and the more he digs, the more he wonders what he got himself into.
The film is based on the novel ‘The Ghost’ by Robert Harris, and Polanski has turned the source material into his own world of madness. The skies are always gray, and it’s always raining. The majority of the film takes place in a modernist palace with straight lines every where you look, with nothing warm or inviting about it. In fact, using this architecture as character adds quite a bit to the atmosphere that Polanski weaves as if it were second nature. There’s all sorts of peripheral characters that add to the tangled dark world of Adam Lang, and they do quite a good job. Surprising, Kim Cattrall is at the top of this list, as Lang’s personal assistant an (know this is only alluded to), his mistress. Lang’s wife is played by Olivia Williams and it’s so nice to see her working on a project that’s not god-awful (read: Dollhouse). It’s McGregor, however, that wins the prize for acting here. He’s certainly at his best.
I have not read Harris’s book, so I’m not sure whether I should thank him, or Mr. Polanski for keeping the political subtext to a minimum. If there is even an argument about torture as a device for receiving information, it’s seems to be in favor. However, there is some heavy finger-wagging at the CIA, and at America in general, and more than a little likeness concerning Tony Blair’s relationship with the US government during his administration. I like to think this is the result of a wounded ego when Polanski wasn’t allowed to pick up his Oscar a few years back because of his naughty activities in the seventies. There’s even a lovely ironic situation in the film where if Lang is convicted of war crimes, his only safe haven would be America (since we don’t recognize the ICC), and he would be exiled here.
Now with all this gushing, I can’t say that Polanski broke any new ground here. But to dismiss such a well directed piece of pulpy entertainment would be a shame. This is a fun as it gets.