Review: The Ghost Writer [2010]

THIS IS THE MOVIE’S GHOST

a review by the Crow.

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OPENING THOUGHTS

Now, Roman Polanski’s one of those directors who’s a little hit and miss with me. While he’s undeniably made some of the best movies of all time, he’s also made a few movies which can be best summed up as: “meh”.

Of course, that doesn’t make this crow worry whether or not the next Polanski movie’s going to be meh. This crow likes heading in and enjoying the movie for what it is. The Ghost Writer is based on Robert Harris’ The Ghost (a collaboration we may hear of again in the near future), and was adapted for film by the pair. Despite certain troubles surrounding the movie’s production owing to Polanski’s past and police laws (none of which this review will be looking at), the movie released in 2010 to generally good reviews.

Well, was it really that good? Let’s find out.


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PLOT

WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS SOME [MINOR] SPOILERS

Tony Blair Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) is the former PM of the UK, currently holed up in an island near Massachusetts along with his wife Ruth (Olivia Williams), a few aides, and his personal assistant (Kim Cattrall), whom Ruth believes Adam to be having an affair with. We are introduced to them via our protagonist (Ewan McGregor), the “ghost”, who is commissioned to work on Lang’s memoirs after the apparently accidental death of the former PM’s former ghostwriter (and friend), one Mike McAra.

He (the ghost) takes the job, and almost immediately, strange things happen. His concerns are allayed by the promise of a heavy paycheck and some convincing by his agent. Once he arrives, he finds security extra tight, and is forced to work within strict limitations.

In the previous manuscript, which the ghost is provided with, things aren’t quite right. As the ghost says: the words are all there, just in the wrong places. Some time after he begins his job, an investigation into Lang’s possible war crimes is launched, and the ghost quickly finds out that Mike McAra’s death might not be as accidental as it’s been made out to be (just maybe).

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Snooping around on his own time, while fearing for his safety and becoming somewhat embroiled in the affairs of the Lang family, the ghost delves deeper and deeper into the mysteries surrounding him, but is ultimately nothing more than a raindrop in the ocean.

In the hotel in which he’s been staying, the ghost comes across an old British anti-war protester, whose son was killed in one of “Lang’s wars”, who is certainly here to confront Lang, and the two have a short, but uneasy conversation. The ghost’s room is broken into at some point that night, and he moves in with the Lang family and their aides.

Some time down the line, as the ghost continues to snoop, Ruth seems to become more and more unhinged, Lang is put under increasing pressure (as all our characters are), the ghost and Rycart – the former Foreign Secretary, and the one who first publicly accused Lang of war crimes – meet.

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At the meeting, Rycart points out how Lang’s entire period of office was one big favour for the US. The ghost has – by now – seen a man’s name recur in McAra’s personal research, and earlier in the movie even met with said man when unable to change the destination on McAra’s car’s GPS. This man is Professor Paul Emmett (Tom Wilkinson) of Harvard Law School.

Guided by McAra’s research and his own findings, the ghost rationalises that perhaps Lang was recruited into the CIA by Emmett. But the movie takes a sudden turn around this juncture. What follows is a strangely satisfying cap-off to the mystery, even though the answer was right there with us all along. It’s both a shame and hilarious that our protagonist is such a dimwit, though.


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EXECUTION

Of course, as with all Polanski movies, The Ghost Writer is chock-full of the man’s signature humour, and might even be the best example of it. The comic moments are a welcome relief indeed in a movie which is otherwise more than dreary.

Other than the humour, The Ghost Writer features some pretty spectacular cinematography, and the performances are quite solid. No complaints here. As a matter of fact, Ewan McGregor and Olivia Williams knocked their performances right out of the park.

Dull as the movie seems at a first glimpse, it helps create a void for the plot to move through. While it’s not a very dense plot, there’s just enough to turn the movie into a thriller of note.

Musical scores are usually very underrated, but The Ghost Writer manages to shove its score down one’s throat. It’s not spectacular, but the epic, high-drama feel that the score pushes to almost hilarious lengths, when put next to the comedy of the movie, the dreary backdrops, and McGregor’s performance as the emerging, but dim-witted investigator, is a combination that has to be pointed out as brilliant.

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Overall, this is a solid movie from a technical standpoint.


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CLOSING THOUGHTS

Very good stuff, and a pretty enjoyable watch. Pick this up on a lazy rainy afternoon. That’s the perfect environment to watch this movie in.

In the predecessor to The Corvid Review, the Crow’s Retrospect, this movie made my top 10 of 2010, back in the day, and even in retrospect (hah!) it is a movie that still holds its place in that year’s top 10.

Even though I’ve written all this out, and you’ve read all this over (for which I love you), I must admit I’ve played a bit of a joke on those of you who’re familiar with the movie. If you wanted to know what this crow thought about this movie, you should’ve looked at the “beginnings” wink-wink nudge-nudge

Final rating: 7/10

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