Saturday, 17 April 2010

Review: The Ghost (A.K.A The Ghost Writer)

Year: 2010
Director: Roman Polanski
Screenplay: Robert Harris, Roman Polanski
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, Pierce Brosnan

Synopsis is here

Reviews of this movie from some of my usual haunts have been full of praise for this movie. Lots of talk of metaphors and likening to Hitchcock as well as the usual cries of POLANSKI IS BACK! However throughout this plodding, dull film, there was a voice in my ear whispering: "If this wasn't Polanski, would all this gushing be heaped upon this movie?" This niggle got louder and louder until the films final scene which will be considered genius by fans and pointless by philistines such as my self.

However with it's lethargic pace and frustratingly boring characters, The Ghost did nothing to even ENGAGE me let alone entertain me. Despite having a story that should be full of intrigue, I was left with a bog standard thriller filled with dubious plot moments and listless characters who initiate jarring conversations. The scenes aren't awkward in the way they should be in a movie like this, they feel unfinished, as if the takes used weren't the best ones filmed. This continues throughout the movie giving the movie and uneven stiffness that had me at odds with everyone in the movie. It's obvious why McGregor's character is called the ghost but as he is also our eyes and ears of this piece why does he seem so uninterested? Polanski's film gives us nothing in this film to invest in. There's hints towards more successful endeavors (The Tenant, Rosemary's Baby et all) but no point do we feel the tightening grip that features in those earlier films.

The narrative is no better. Like Chinatown we have a character that goes for the money and stays for the mystery but features little or no involvement. Plot points are telegraphed from far, twists are not only late coming, but unsurprising and throughout your left at an arms length distanced from the story. Bad times from the man who turned New York City into a satanic tomb for Mia Farrow. In no way did I feel involved in what was going on and nor did it seem to matter and while I'm not looking for a cliched car chase or explosion to grab my attention, I was more than a little miffed that none of the films talk gripped me. The film is also a little insulting with some of the films moments of plot. Not to ruin the film on purpose but, considering how sensitive the material often is this man left alone?

Performance wise, the film varied from dead eyed (McGregor), to miscast (Cattrall). Other displays fared better; Brosnan and Williams are high points, but all in all the there wasn't really anything to write home about. The same can be said from the films drab visuals which did as much to isolate me as a viewer as the characters relationships.

The Ghost is full of nods to the filmmakers earlier works but unfortunately the whole film feels Polanski-lite to me. It's a film that did little to excite or involve me in the slightest. A film I expected more from but gained nothing out of it. Philistine I may be, but at least this philistine has a copy of Chinatown at home to enjoy.