Saturday, January 1, 2011
Despite being a first class douchebag in real life, Roman Polanski is a filmmaker of extraordinary talents. His ability to craft scenes that create a sense of mystery and paranoia are the stuff of Noir fiction and Alfred Hitchcock.
No doubt these feelings are ones he holds closer to his heart after a lifetime on the run from justice. His real prison is the one inside his own head where he can only imagine the thought of everyone around him. I like to think that is worse punishment for an intelligent man than any a conventional brick and mortar prison could provide.
The movie stars Ewen McGregor (named only THE GHOST) in the role of an edgy, socially and emotionally distant ghost writer who has been hired to help complete the memoirs of a retired British prime minister, the charismatic Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). To do this he travels from London to Maine where, over 3 days, he is thrust into the complicated world of high stakes global politics. A scandal involving prisoners and rendition from the Iraqi War are threatening to see Lang tried in the Hague as a war criminal.
Ewen's character was hired to complete this politician's autobiography (first in a month and then it's reduced to two weeks) after the previous long time ghost writer on the book was found dead on the beach in a believed suicide.
Surrounding Lang are his chief of staff (played with icy perfection by Kim Cattral) and his 'on the verge of a nervous breakdown wife' (played by Oliva Williams) in a performance that doesn't generate any sympathy for her character at all. She is a pill. You want to leave the room every time she enters it because she is such a buzz kill.
It's nice to see how heavily influenced Lang is by the women in his life. One he trust to keep him safe from the growing scandal and the other he hopes will, despite being such an obvious disappointment to her.
It's a good film. The more I think of it's subtleties, the more I like it. It's a movie that confuses you when you are watching it because, at times, you have no straight up answers to your questions - only suspicions, and that is the point.
When you think back after it's over (and you will) you will be rewarded by the remembrances of clues to the truth that are sprinkled all throughout the tale but can only be appreciated when you step back and look at the whole picture.
It takes it's time pulling you into it's web and the island setting off the main coast is so strong and perfect for the story that it is almost a character itself. I would rather live in the dry polar desert of northern Canada than try to survive one month on the coast of Nova Scotia during a bad storm season. I have never seen movie precipitation that absolutely chilled me to the bone like I have in this film. Okay, maybe on 'Deadliest Catch'.
It's little touches like that that give this movie it's reality. Add fantastic cameos by Eli Wallach as and old man living near the beach where the previous ghost writer was found and Tom Wilkinson as an old college friend of Lang's and you get a rich and interesting film that pays off in the end with one of THE great closing scenes in movie history.
The music is perfect to the subject matter as is the sterile, cold feeling of Lang's beachside mansion in the ways it contrasts the storm raging outside it's wall.
I also need to tell you that the film takes place over THREE DAYS. If I had known that going in I would have been pulled into the ever closing noose of the story even more than I already was.
It's a major flaw that Polanski thought that his edit would make that fact unmistakable. It's doesn't. If he only added subtitles like FRIDAY and SATURDAY and SUNDAY all this would have been fixed.
Only very late into the film is Ewen's character asked how long he has known Lang and replies with, "three days". When I heard that I said aloud, "Really Roman, three days? What did I miss?"
McGregor can play this role in his sleep and did for part of the film (you will know what I mean if you see the movie) so you can be forgiven for thinking it is not interesting because it's not as flashy as the very good performances around him. However, he is the empty emotionless empty vessel into all the other character's pour their passion into and that is what keeps you interested.
Posted by Kal at 3:19 PM