Monday, March 15, 2010

Movie Review: The Ghost Writer

Saturday a storm rolled in, rain at first and then snow.  I had planned to do more spring cleanup in the yard, but the weather spoiled my plans.  And since the house was clean and everyone I know was off doing Saturday things, I took myself out to a movie on the spur of the moment.  I chose "The Ghost Writer" which had just arrived at Salt Lake's Broadway Theatre -- the place for foreign and independent movies, and occasionally mainstream movies with more of an edge.  This movie would fall into the latter category.

Directed by Roman Polanski, this was billed as a suspense thriller.  This is a bit out of the normal genre for me, but I liked the writeup in the NY Times.  It turned out to suit me quite well.  This was no Robert Ludlum story with numerous characters and a complex plot.  The cast is small and the storyline simple.  Facts are slowly revealed to you the viewer as our main character learns them.  There is just enough tension in the movie to keep you alert but not overly tense.

The movie opens in London with our main character, the ghost writer, played so well by Ewan McGregor, applying for the job of rewriting the memoirs of the former British Prime Minister, played by Pierce Brosnan.  McGregor's predecessor in the position has met an untimely death, falling overboard from a ferry and drowning.  Right away we begin to realize that all is not as it seems.  Questions arise, and clues begin to emerge.  Little by little we are drawn into the story and, through the eyes of the ghost writer, we learn the answers that lead us to the ultimate conclusion.

I particularly liked the style of the movie.  It had the feel of an updated 1940's Bogart mystery.  The characters are fairly one-dimensional but deliciously so.  The dialogue is crisp, clipped, spare.  Most of the movie takes place on an island off the Cape Cod coast.  The dismal weather, the stark but beautiful seacoast, the fortress-like building, all contribute to the uneasy feeling of personal discomfort and possible danger.

The political background has just enough flavor of recent history.  You might believe the Prime Minister is based on, but is not quite, Tony Blair.  The war-profiteering company Hatherton is clearly meant to remind you of real-life Haliburton.  But the story necessarily departs from reality there.

The one distraction for me was Kim Catrell's phony British accent, as she played the role of the Prime Minister's personal assistant.  Her voice was unnaturally high pitched, and when she says "Right!", it just doesn't feel right.  Much better, I think, to have cast her as an American assistant and allowed her to use her more suitable sultry voice.  Still, the distraction was minor.

I give this movie four stars out of five.  While the plot was a bit thin, that was more than made up for by the acting, the scenery, the photography, and the way in which the story was told.  It turned out to be a very pleasant way to spend a rainy afternoon.  Walking out of the theater afterward was a bit like closing the cover on an enjoyable mystery novel.  I recommend this one.

"Rated PG-13 for language, brief nudity/sexuality, some violence and a drug reference."


Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

Nice review. I am off to my Netflix queue to see if it is out on DVD yet for my viewing at home. Sounds like just the type of film I would enjoy.

Bee's Blog said...
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Bee's Blog said...

What a good read. I do so want to see this film - whoops - movie in your part of the world.