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The Ghost - Review

The Ghost

Review by Cassam Looch

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

TREADING a very fine line between satire and parody, The Ghost proves to be controversial beyond the background of its director Roman Polanski.

In fact, it’s surprising that not more has been made of the caricature painted in this story by Pierce Brosnan, who offers up a superb performance and painfully accurate take on a recent wartime Prime Minister whose regime was clouded in conspiracies towards the end of his final years.

Based on Robert Harris’ acclaimed novel, The Ghost is the story of a ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) hired to take over writing the memoirs of former British Prime Minister (Brosnan) after the first co-writer dies in an accident.

Soon after the writer accepts the assignment, a high-ranking British official accuses Lang of illegally seizing suspected terrorists and handing them over for torture by CIA, a war crime.

The controversy brings reporters and protesters swarming to the Martha’s Vineyard mansion where Lang is staying with his wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams) and his media-handler turned mistress, Amelia (Kim Cattrall).

As The writer 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.

From acclaimed director Polanski, the film is a biting and sharp look at the massive machine of global politics. The media is also heavily featured and in the first hour or so the film is breathtakingly explosive in terms of its content, if not action.

It’s a gentle pace, but once you get behind the words and stories at play you really get absorbed in all the characters. Even the aloof ghostwriter played by the usually cold McGregor fills the void at the centre of the film with some merit.

This opening part of the film is, however, dominated by another superb performance from Brosnan (on a high following a great turn in Remember Me). He nails the impersonation he is after and has subtle mannerisms that add to the character and re-enforce the skill of the actor.

It’s a shame, then, that the second half of the film doesn’t quite live up to the faultless opening. It’s not bad in the conspiracy-fuelled final act, but feels very inconsequential given the themes and real world issues of the earlier portion.

The lack of Brosnan later on doesn’t help, either, and nor does a dramatic twist which shifts focus away from the main characters and onto a side issue which has little interest to maintain attention.

Olivia Williams and Kim Cattrall send sparks flying in their catty relationship, but you always suspect there is a lot more behind this. We won’t go too far into divulging the twists and turns along the way, suffice to say some work better than others.

Polanski does manage to use some light touches and adds something to the story that might otherwise have turned this into a typical Hollywood thriller. It’s better than that, and worth a look for Brosnan’s barnstorming turn alone.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 128mins
UK Release Date: April 16, 2010