The Ghost Blu-ray
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Directed by Roman Polanski
Produced in 2009
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - European Film, American film
Roman Polanski gives the world his own version of Tony Blair’s memoirs in this adaptation of the novel by Robert Harris, about a British ex-PM keen to set the record straight after an unpopular war. Milo Wakelin takes notes.
Since The Bourne Identity (2002), the thriller genre has become overpopulated with humourless assassins, dizzying rooftop chases, lightening-fast pugilism, and incredibly shaky camerawork. Leave it to an old pro like Roman Polanski to deliver one of the most stylish and satisfying thrillers of recent years.
Based on Robert Harris's 2007 best seller, The Ghost stars Ewan McGregor as an (appropriately anonymous) ghost writer who is offered an astronomical sum to re-write the autobiography of ex-Prime Minister Adam Lang (a sickly suave Pierce Brosnan). The catch? The Ghost's predecessor died under strange circumstances, and there may be more in Lang's rambling memoirs than meets the eye.
The Ghost is spirited away to a remote island retreat, where Lang's tome is kept under lock and key by his personal assistant, Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall). But when ex-Foreign Secretary Richard Rycart (Robert Pugh, channelling the late Robin Cook) initiates war crimes charges against his former boss, press and protesters close in. The Ghost suddenly finds himself trapped with Lang's wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams), for company, and a deadly mystery locked within the document's pages.
Like Alfred Hitchcock, Polanski knows that the height of tension can be achieved simply by leaving two people alone in a room, and most of the film's action is confined to the stark modernist cage of Lang's mansion in Martha's Vineyard. The nearest we get to a car chase involves some sharp driving around a ferry terminal - certainly nothing you'd lose your licence over. There are frequent nods to the Master of Suspense - including a closeup shot which tracks a folded note as it passes, hand-to-hand, through a crowd - but this classy, claustrophobic piece is vintage Polanski, and Alexandre Desplat's score evokes the taut thrillers of the 70s.
McGregor plays The Ghost as something between an unscrupulous hack, a likeable rogue and an out-of-his-depth everyman. Cattrall and Williams are perfectly cast as the two very different women in Lang's life, whilst Brosnan tears into the role of the larger-than-life ex-PM with relish.
For many, the prospect of seeing a Blair-like figure facing charges at the Hague will be a dream come true, and many of the crimes levelled against Lang, which include collusion with extraordinary rendition and torture, are torn straight from recent headlines. But despite these deliberate parallels, Polanski steers well clear of polemics or point-scoring, and never lets the political themes of the story overwhelm its human aspects. Indeed, it's not hard to find similarities between Lang's predicament and that of Polanski himself - a man who, as a result of past crimes, now finds himself trapped in a gilded cage.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of Polanski's case, we can all be grateful his particular cage had the necessary facilities to allow him to complete post-production on this assured and enjoyable piece of film-making.
Milo Wakelin on 31st August 2010
Author of 106 reviews
A political thriller based on the novel by Robert Harris, The Ghost sees Ewan McGregor play a ghost-writer who is hired to work on the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) following the mysterious demise of his previous collaborator. However, soon after he accepts the assignment, a high-ranking British official accuses Lang of the war crime of illegally seizing suspected terrorists and handing them over for torture by CIA.
The controversy brings reporters and protesters swarming to the Martha's Vineyard mansion where Lang is staying with his wife and his media-handler turned mistress, Amelia (Kim Cattrall). As the ghostwriter works, he begins uncover to clues revealing the previous writer may have pieced together a dark secret linking Lang to the CIA, and that somehow this information is hidden in the manuscript he left behind.
Resonating with topical themes, this atmospheric and intriguing political thriller charts one man's determination to discover the truth and to tell it, if necessary, from beyond the grave.
Publisher: Studio Canal
Length: 123 mins
Format: Blu-ray Colour
Released: 20th September 2010
Cat No: OPTBD1817
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