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DVD Review: The Ghost (2010, aka The Ghost Writer)

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Infamous director Roman Polanski’s latest film is adapted from a Robert Harris novel about a ghost writer who is hired to take over writing a former Prime Minister’s memoirs. The Ghost (the film is known as The Ghost Writer in its US release) of the title ends up looking for the clues to a mystery in his predecessor’s manuscript as The Man Himself is accused of war crimes. It’s all very Da Vinci Code.

The Prime Minister in this case is not Tony Blair but is loosely based on him (his name is Adam Lang and some of the aspects that troubled Blair’s time in office remain the same for this character), and he’s played by Pierce Brosnan who is still charismatic and smooth as ever at the age of 57. I still remember him from when he was James Bond so I like him because of that. And yet, it’s not favouritism that makes him my favourite actor in this film, as he is just that good an actor. He had some strong moments in the film, such as the scenes where he loses his temper or is barely restraining himself.

Playing the role of Lang’s ghost writer (he remains unnamed throughout the film, which led to much confusion on my part) is Ewan McGregor, who plays his role very well, even if he spends most of the first 15 minutes or so of screen time sleeping.

Olivia Williams and Kim Cattrall star as Lang’s wife and assistant respectively and the dynamic between the two is interesting to watch, as you can tell that Ruth Lang barely tolerates the assistant’s presence and isn’t able to conceal that as well as she’d like sometimes.

The direction conveys the atmosphere and the feeling of isolation at Lang’s island retreat (which is supposed to be Martha’s Vineyard) very well, as well as some intelligent location usage (I thought they’d filmed the book launch in London; it was actually filmed in Berlin) on Polanski’s part.

The standard release DVD contains several brief interviews from the cast, Roman Polanski, and Robert Harris. Don’t watch them before you’ve seen the film though, as they give away the ending (they talk about the fact that it wasn’t planned). It also contains two short featurettes about how based the book and film are in real life and the cast talking about the film (more interviews), as well as footage from the world premiere in Berlin.

The film did what seemed impossible to me and actually made me want to learn more about politics. I even considered reading the upcoming memoirs by Tony Blair. They set out to make a political thriller and they did it very well. The reveal at the end was well planned out and executed. Some of the significance of the clues took a while to set in but they were all explained by the film in due course. This is certainly a good film for anyone who likes an intelligent thriller.

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