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The Ghost - (DVD) Review

The Ghost

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD & BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES: The Cast of the Ghost’ featurette; ‘The Ghost Writer: Fiction or Reality?’ featurette; The World Premiere in Berlin; Interview with Ewan McGregor; Interview with Pierce Brosnan; Interview with Olivia Williams; Interview with Robert Harris; Interview with Roman Polanski.
BD Exclusive extras: Press conference at the Berlinale; Trailer; Photo gallery.

ROMAN Polanski’s The Ghost serves as both a sharp satire of current political affairs as well as an intriguing conspiracy thriller.

Based on the novel by Robert Harris, and staying largely faithful to the source material, the film offers a slow burning political thriller that’s buoyed by great performances from Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams in particular.

Ewan McGregor stars as the ghost of the title, a successful ‘ghost-writer’ who is hired to pen the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Brosnan) just as a high-ranking British official accuses Lang of illegally seizing suspected terrorists and handing them over for torture by CIA – a potential war crime.

Travelling to Lang’s getaway on Martha’s Vineyard, where the former PM is staying with his wife, Ruth (Williams), and his media-handler turned mistress, Amelia (Kim Cattrall), The writer sets to work, but soon begins to uncover clues surrounding the death of a previous ghost-writer and Lang’s links to the CIA.

As Lang’s enemies close in, The Ghost comes to suspect that the secrets lie in the original manuscript, and finds his own life in jeopardy as a result.

The first half of Polanski’s intriguing pot-boiler is almost solely devoted to getting to know the characters, with McGregor and Brosnan thriving on the pithy interplay that exists between them. Brosnan, in particular, channels the memory of a recent former PM incredibly well – charismatic when he wishes, yet ruthless and calculated at other points.

His is the film’s performance to savour and his absence during the second half of proceedings is sorely felt.

But McGregor offers good value, too, in spite of an initially strange accent, while there’s plenty for both Williams and Cattrall to sink their teeth into, especially as the revelations start to mount.

Admittedly, The Ghost does work best when residing in the satire that rings so uncomfortably true to recent media headlines surrounding rendition and government secrets, and is less convincing during the latter conspiracy elements.

But having created a set of characters and events that hold the interest, Polanski still ensures that his film remains worth watching until the very end – with a good twist waiting in the wings for anyone not averse with Harris’ source material.

A darker finale, meanwhile, awaits those who have read Harris’ text, perhaps added to mirror Polanski’s own disdain for authority.

The Ghost isn’t without flaws, of course… the running time is perhaps a little too generous given the way the second half peters out slightly, and the absence of Brosnan for long periods of time deprives the film of its primary reason for watching.

If we’re being ultra critical, the pacing could do with a little more urgency and McGregor perhaps didn’t need to employ another of his accents (which proves initially distracting). But there’s no denying the intelligence of the screenplay, or the expert way in which Polanski holds you captive, meaning that The Ghost still manages to keep you enthralled en route to its clever finale.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 123mins
UK DVD Release: September 20, 2010