Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Ghost Writer - ****

There is a scene toward the end of The Ghost Writer, Roman Polanski’s latest film, in which a note is passed through a group of partygoers, hand to hand, for what seems like minutes. Calendar pages fall as we see it pass by half-full glasses of champagne, through ringed fingers and finally to the hands of the person it was meant for. The audience knows what the note reads, and the suspense which has built over the previous 60 seconds of screen time has nothing to do with finding out what it says, but how this person will react. It is a shining moment in what is one of the first great films of 2010.

The film opens with a meeting at a publishing house. Ewan McGregor plays a “ghost writer” – one who writes a book but receives no credit; someone who comes in handy when a noted politician is trying to write his autobiography but has no more talent than the person writing this review. In this case, we have Adam Lang, played by Pierce Brosnan, a former Prime Minister who is involved with several scandals involving an ongoing war. In the midst of writing his book, Lang is accused of several crimes and his first ghost writer ends up missing. It is at this point where McGregor enters, and the puzzle begins. What is so enticing about the mystery is that it isn’t just whether or not he is guilty, but who it is that might benefit from Lang taking the fall, and the ways in which the supporting cast, including Tom Wilkinson, Kim Cattrall and the always fantastic Olivia Williams try to push “the Ghost” in different directions.

I think what is most impressive about the film is the pacing. In addition to the passing of the note, there is a chase scene later in the film involving slowly-moving cars which end up on a ferry boat. Once aboard, the passengers take foot, quickly scurrying about both tiers of the vessel until one of them escapes. It travels at a snail’s pace, but is one of the most exciting sequences in the movie.

In the end, The Ghost Writer is more than just a captivating thriller. It serves as a statement on politics today and the idea of power and where it comes from in this age. I will also say that I hated writing this review because of how fond I am of the film, and look forward to tearing apart all of the muck and grime that was movies in March 2010.

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