Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Ghost Writer - Movie Review

The 2010 Roman Polanski movie, based on a novel, is about a young ghost writer (Ewan MacGregor) who is offered the job of writing the unfinished memoirs of former Prime Minister of Britain Alan Lang (Pierce Brosnan). A lucrative assignment, it is required to be done quickly while the former PM is on tour in the USA. The ghost writer soon finds out that the first draft of the memoirs is already written by the previous ghost writer McAra who incidentally was found washed up on the shore in the same place where he goes to meet the former Prime Minister. On that island in a secluded and heavily guarded place live the former PM, his wife and his secretary who also seems to double as his romantic interest much to the wife's anger. The day after he reports on the island, the PM's ex-foreign secretary leaks some vital information that makes the former PM a war criminal on the run.

Anyway the key is that the ghost writer needs to find out why his predecessor washed up on the shore dead in this intriguing set up. He finds pictures and information that link the Prime Minister to a former CIA agent, a certain Professor Emmett in McAra's room. Driving the same car as McAra, the new ghost locates the house of Emmett and meets him. Lang and Emmett had met in Cambridge. Meanwhile the new ghost also finds that the dead McAra was in touch with the foreign minister who has put Lang in a spot. Not knowing who to trust with the infromation that McAra was murdered, he first confides with the PM's wife with whom he gets intimate one evening, then the foreign minister over the phone and the to Lang himself. Lang is shot dead by a war veteran whose son was killed in the Iraq war. Anyway McAra has left enough clues about the real CIA agent (one suspects Lang of being that) in the beginnings of the memoirs he has written. The ghost finds out and once again reveals his hand. This time he does not survive.

Complicated? Not really. Sloppy? Yes. It's supposed to be loosely based on Tony Blair and his proximity to the USA. The foreign minister actually looks like Robin Cook the British Minister. The movie is a thriller no doubt as we try to find out why someone is killed and what is happening. It keeps you glued till the end and is very taut and tight. For a totally gripping tale well told, of intrigue, murder and thrill, full marks to Roman Polanski. But I was not too convinced about the naivete of the young ghost writer who behaves like a school kid. To go around spilling information which is certainly dangerous to the main players in the plot is to invite his own death and I am surprised how he lasted till the end of the movie. He confesses his doubts and discoveries to the PM's wife, the PM and the PM's arch foe the foreign minister - any of whom could have killed the previous ghost writer. The ending about the 'beginnings' was also rather amateurish I felt and would have liked something more sophisticated and complex. I'd have thought that McAra would have left clues that would not have been so distant and chancy, that would have got the real killer's identity out. The reason for the death of Lang is not convincing (was it by chance?), why the foreign minister wants to see the manuscript when he is in touch with the previous ghost writer himself who could have told him the truth, the way the new ghost bumbles around with his information, why the super efficient killers leave McAra's room unchecked for information, why the PM's super efficient secretary is so clueless are all loose ends to me. A bit sloppy in retrospect. But for a movie experience of a fast paced thriller with intrigue and some whodunnit moments, its a definite watch. Fine performances by Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan and the others.

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