The Ghost Writer
A dark political suspense fable that ultimately collapses somewhat under it's own weight.
Roman Polanski’s newest film follows the journey of an unknowing and honest writer as he embarks on the seemingly effortless task of ghostwriting the autobiography of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang. Through the trials and tribulations of rewording the language of his predecessor, the once straightforward job turns dangerous as criminal allegation towards Lang begin to surface. As the seemingly painless project begins to unfold, the newest ghost writer begins to uncover information linking Lang to several allegation of previous war crimes and alleged illegal kidnapping and torture of several known terrorists. As the evidence and queries emerge the unnamed ghost writer is forced to question whether this opportunity of a life time is in fact worth the cost of his own life.
With a previous best sellers to his credit, the replacement ghost writer is offered the esteemed position of writing alongside a premier British political figure despite his sever lack of knowledge concerning present day politics. The newest ghost position is set into motion immediately in order to finish a mere rough draft version of Lang’s memoir. The sudden death of the preceding ghost Michael allows for the newest member of the Lang unit available to uncover a great many details and secrets concerning the former Prime Minister, embodied by former 007, Pierce Brosnon.
As a true ghost, embodied by Ewan Macgregor, the image moves through the film as a nameless shadow who manages to slip between the cracks of Lang’s stark island house. Upon arrival, he is immediately confronted by assistant Amelia and shoved toward the heavy worded document containing the life story of Lang himself. After a six hour literary marathon Ghost must rewrite and rework the entire manuscript for immediate distribution.
In a very short time we begin to realize that the reality of this post appointed lifestyle is anything less than ordinary. Within days, the British and American news media becomes overwhelmed with information concerning Lang and hundreds of accusations of unethical a severe war crimes that forced many of his own towards a brutal death. These allegation towards Mr. Lang set society in motion where the everyone associated to the former Prime Minister becomes a target including the Ghost who previously a quiet existence in London. When Lang becomes a national threat, the simple job of rewriting a memoir turns into a game of mortality. Each moment of peace is met with either an inquisitive neighbor or the revelation of insight that may inevitably hurt the young man out to plainly do his job.
Roman Polanski creates a film of potentially interesting characters surrounding an easy going professional who claims to never blur the lines between personal drama with the work he was hired to do. Ewan has the ability to combine the subtleties of a writer with the appropriate and often sarcastic sense of humor to understand the absurdities of the hypocrisy of the ghost writing profession. The audience in thrust into the uncomfortable circumstance of dealing with a hired employee as he must face hundreds of formalities concerning a powerful man that may be capable of ending his life. Polanski juxtaposes the necessary procedure of locking up an unfinished, yet sought after manuscript with a mere swipe of an access card. These moments relieve the tension for the audience as we are given very few answers to the many ambiguous questions asked throughout the length of the film.
Polanski makes an effort to flush out the absurdity in his characters in moments of silence and pressure and yet often these instances tend to feel contrived and choppy as the tension begins to build. Polanski throws in several instances between Lang ‘s loving wife and the ghost that occur in the confines of the home, but are never discussed or referenced beyond the initial moment. An intimate evening between the two is passionless and pointless, as it never resurfaces or clues the audience into the world be are desperately trying to discover.
A simple flirtation or the allusion to sex would allow for the knowledge that this marriage is in fact impure, and yet the act is merely a move to shove eroticism and the necessary affair down the viewer’s throat. The clear chemistry between Lang and assistant Ameila, played by Sex and the City’s Kim Catrell embodies an interesting subtlety that forces the viewer to question the integrity of their relationship, while painting a vivid picture of Lang’s loose moral code; a much more effective tactic.
For the most part, Polanski directs a film with moments of wit and edge that allow for complex and interesting characters, and yet the film seems rather halted at moments with vague answers to ever more ambiguous questions. The accusations against Lang aren’t stated clearly and many of the discoveries are left with only partial answers or information that only seems like a intense discovery. The conclusion of the film allows the audience to again live in the security that politicians are dishonest cheaters incapable of staying true to their initial political and moral ideals. Ghost Writer is a worthwhile venture, yet fails to live up to the standard and talent of the cast.
Starring: Pierce Brosnon, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall
Director: Roman Polanski
Runtime: 128 Minutes
Distributor: Summit Entertainment