Roman Polanski's new political drama about a ghost writer brought in to finish a memoir by an ex-prime minister starts off soft, taking it's time to massage you up, but eventually you find yourself utterly engaged without ever realizing it, and then the movie ends.
Roman Polanski, the man responsible for Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist (or even The Ninth Gate if you're so inclined), just to name a few. And those few, are stand-outs in history folks. Roman's had some high's and low's in between those (and after) and still comes out on top at the end of the day because those things. And now it looks to me that he might have added to the list of greatest again with The Ghost Writer.
This movie is a mystery, and make no mistake, starts dropping you hints on details from the first few frames we see, up until the last shot of papers flying through the breezy streets of England.
The movie opens fast and the editing is paced together nice with a ferry is taking passengers from the mainland to an island next to New York somewhere (maybe I didn't catch the name of the island cuz I was trying to shoot out a last text to this girl. Sue me). We then watch as a BMW x3 is at a stand still and angry drivers have to move around it. A giant machine comes in, and moves the automobile and then we cut to it's driver: dead and washed up on the beach of the island. The deceased is the long term aid to the P.M. and first ghoster of the memoirs of Adam Lang (Brosnan). We then watch as a never named writer of memoirs and autobiographies (McGregor) is being pitched the idea of writing his next piece: the memoirs of Adam Lang, British legend and ex-Prime Minister. At first he is reluctant, because as everybody knows being a ghost is soooooooo prestigious, why take on the lowly assignment of ghosting for the P.M. of Britain for God's sake? Eventually we see him in an interview, with a nicely done cameo by a shaved head Jim Belushi believe it or not. It was a pretty cool surprise.
He takes the job and get's sent to the island where he will be working with the ex P.M.'s team to re-write the book and get it out in a month. He's greeted by Amelia Bly (Catrall complete with a nicely done and understated formal British accent) and she gives him the run down. She takes him to the little post-modern abode on the island complete with an Asian and broken-english speaking cleaning and cooking crew, who want nothing more then to please their masters. At least they avoided stereotyping, nice guys.
Along the way we're dropped subtle hints about thing that don't exactly seem up-and-up as we learn that the Prime Minister a day after McGregor's arrival is being charged with a war crime of authorizing the illegal seizure of suspected terrorists and handing them over for torture by the C.I.A. Now we see as the P.M. battles the press, and the protesting public all over the island. As much as this dampens the public's view of him, he still has a saving grace in his book, and intends to finish it.
The ghost is intrigued by the mess of things as the P.M. rushes off to Washington for some damage control and to get out there and show the world, it's still business as usual and ain't nothin' holdin' this dude down sucka! We are then really shown his wife (Olivia Williams) who has more than the usual sense of jade green most politician's wives get. Due to watching from the sidelines as well as getting the inside eye at how it really works. Williams, coming off a nicely done role as the uptight school teacher with a heart in An Education, proves to us once again, that she can steal every scene she's in and you'll love her for it. Silver tongued and smarter than you'll realize until she tells you or it's too late, this wife has more than her fair share of secrets.
Like most directors around from his beginnings, that era taught them to hone their skills and use their craft, never giving in to the silly money making gimmicks of today. The editing reminds me of The Departed, as well as the intrigue and plot building, with minuscule details and hints dropped like bread crumbs for us to follow. This man, at 76, proves that the old tricks are the best tricks. And the only tricks these guys learned, were to pay attention to detail, to take their time, to less-is-more it, and use their brains and not their box office muscles.
Brosnan, albeit a smaller role then I was lead to believe, is a chip off Tony Blair's shoulder so much I bet he's got it wrapped up in a bandage. But we're not here to poke fun at how much this movie obviously took shots a the P.M. And how he gave in to America's every demand like a prison bitch on a life sentence. This film is set at a slow boil, and once it's ready, it tastes even better than you thought it would.