Friday, September 24, 2010

Write on

Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer is a slick and powerful neo-noir. Ewan McGregor plays a young writer, ghosting to make ends meet, who gets plunged headfirst into a world of political intrigue when he's hired to help Alan Lang, the former PM of the UK played by Pierce Brosnan, complete his memoir.

Most neo-noirs have a claustrophobic and stifling feel to them. The Ghost Writer, instead, channels THX 1138 and other Wellesian distopia future films. The landscapes and interiors are cold, vacant and hollow.
The houses do not feel like home, and even the island itself seems more like a santiarium than a resort. It's interesting to have watched this film so shortly after I had watched Shutter Island. These movies might seem thematically very similar: a man finds himself on an isolated island for his work and discovers a possible conspiracy. But their visual styles could not be more different and it's wonderful to see how the atmosphere the director creates does so much to enhance the plot and reveal the emotional state of the characters.

The casting is brilliant. Some of the best scenes occur in the beginning where familiar faces, like Jim Belushi, deliver surprisingly masterful performances in their small roles. I was especially pleased with Pierce Brosnan in this film. He gives Prime Minister Lang layers which I did not
expect. So much of the plot relies on his character, and Brosnan shows the tiny cracks in Lang's crafted, slick political facade in a nuanced and believable way. McGregor, as always, is so organic as the naive young, un-named artist. His role is one that closely mirrors the role Polanski played in The Tenant/Le Locataire. His innocence is his greatest flaw as he tries, in vain, to swim against the merciless current of fate. Yet, he is so likable and sympathetic that you cannot help but root for him. His nameless character is a perfect foil of other famous nameless character, like Clint Eastwood's hard Man With No Name. He is vulnerable and anxious, but resolute. Olivia Williams is magnetic as the PM's wife, Ruth. Williams makes Ruth into a mysterious woman whose charms almost conceal her darker motives, almost.

However, the cold, clinical atmosphere of the film makes it a little difficult to get attached to the characters. That doesn't make it any less of a well-crafted film, it's just the reason why it could never be a blockbuster.

Coming soon: Doctor Zhiavago, Bugsy, The Town, and more! I've been doing more movie
watching than blogging, but I'll do my best to catch up.

-- Noel
Sent from my T-Mobile Sidekick®


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