I’m convinced that there’s a great story somewhere in this latest mess from director Roman Polanski. I loved so many of the ideas and Polanski did such a great job of establishing an eerie tone to the film that perhaps he could have made a great movie had he had some help with the script and made a few better decisions. As it is, THE GHOST WRITER feels like a movie that was made to make a political statement and didn’t have time for much else.
Ewan McGregor is a ghost writer, tabbed to pen the autobiography of the former British prime minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). We start out with the murder of McGregor’s predecessor, setting the tone that something is not quite right with the assignment. When we meet Lang, we learn that he’s being charged with war crimes for approving the kidnapping of suspected terrorists and handing them over to the CIA. But the actual mystery that the ghost writer is investigating is how exactly Lang is involved with the CIA and if he really is who he says he is. So there are a few mysteries going on in the story and none of them really work together.
One of the issues with the film is the impending doom facing the ghost writer. We know that his predecessor died (presumably murdered), but I never felt that he was actually in any danger. A more effective way to heighten the intensity would have been to do away with the predecessor all together and instead of having a murder of a character we never saw or cared about, have one of Lang’s employees (or maybe the writer’s agent) get murdered while the writer is at Lang’s house. That would impact the audience more and create a more dramatic situation for the ghost writer.
Polanski also focused way too heavily on Lang’s impending war crimes trial. The audience never cared whether Lang was guilty of war crimes and this felt like an attempt on Polanski’s part to push his political agenda, which he did at the sacrifice of his film. The real mystery that the audience was interested in was whether or not Lang was actually a CIA agent. I wanted that to be explored more and all of the drama in the film should have centered on the ghost writer investigating and unraveling that mystery. That could have sparked a cat and mouse situation with each party trying to outsmart the other.
At this point, I’ve basically re-written the entire script, but that leads me to my point that there’s a great, basic idea in THE GHOST WRITER, Polanski just lost sight of it. Spike Lee is also guilty of sacrificing his story for the benefit of making his political point and it seems Roman Polanski fell victim to the same trap. I’m all for directors making political points with their films, but never at the expense of developing a story that audiences can relate to.
Despite the problems with the script and story development, I did enjoy Polanski’s direction. I loved the use of dark, dreary colors and the film had a great feel to it. I also enjoyed Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan, who did very well in their roles. That made it that much more frustrating that they didn’t get a chance to really shine when pitted against each other. The only negative as far as performances comes from Kim Cattrall, who delivers one of the worst British accents in the history of film. Seriously, Polanski, were there no British actresses available?
Video: I loved this transfer. This is the first double sided disc I’ve seen from Summit, but it definitely didn’t result in a loss of video quality. The darker tones to the film were beautiful
Audio: The sound was efficient although given the nature of the film, surround channels weren’t used very often.
The Ghost Writer: Fiction or Reality (10:46): It’s kind of funny when screenwriter Robert Harris talks about aspects of the story he struggled with, most of which I didn’t like. He does most of the talking and speaks openly about the similarities with Tony Blair.
The Cast of The Ghost Writer (11:49): I needed an explanation for why Kim Cattrall was there, but I didn’t get it. The rest of this is dedicated to how great Roman Polanski is and how much everyone enjoyed working with him and each other.
An Interview with Roman Polanski (8:39): More love given to Roman Polanski, this time Polanski answers questions from an interviewer we can’t hear. He keeps it pretty light, but it was nice to see a lot of the behind the scenes clips.