Feb 24, 2010
REVIEW: The Ghost Writer (dir. Polanski)
For about an hour The Ghost Writer is as good as people say. The atmosphere is crisp and spooky. The feel the weather in your bones. Ewan McGregor pads aorund the hi-tech beachhouse of ex prime minister Piers Brosnan, ostensibly to help him with his memoirs, but really to trip over clues leading him to the truth of a series of war crime allegations. The atmosphere of the house is blunt, weirdly jovial, but charmless — the slight deadness in the air you get around power. Ive never liked Brosnan as much as I did in this role: sweaty in tennis gear, he plays the humorlessness of powerful men to perfection. McGregor seems snub-nosed, cheeky, a little stupid. The role is a bit of a potato: he pads around picking up clues left by his predecessor, who met with an untimely end on the beach but not before completing the bulk of the plot's investigative footwork. All McGregor has to do join the dots, something he does at such a snail's pace the movie sometimes slows to a complete standstill. There's a sort-of car chase that just turns into a nice drive through the countryside; and any film whose plot is solved by someone typing a person's name into Google — bingo! he's a member of the CIA! — is a little in the undernourished side. Robert Harris's thriller was one of those books, like the Da Vinci Code, that drops odd clues and happenings in the reader's lap every other chapter, but never quote rouses itself to a fully-charged up plot. It's much better at atmosphere, and Polanski is hardly the man to rectify that imbalance: give the man a pea-souper and you won't see the man for days on end. Still, for an hour or so I was pleasantly tickled and even relieved to enter a world where torture is treated as a serious crime, and even association with CIA's rendition program is enough to get a British Prime Minister indicted at the Hague. Ah, the comforts of fiction! I left the theatre to find it still raining.