Film Review: The Ghost

16/04/2010

Based on the best-selling novel by Robert Harris, The Ghost exhibits why Roman Polanski is widely considered one of the greatest directors. From the very beginning the film is captivating, drawing in the viewer until the end credits roll.

The Ghost tells the story of a ghost writer who is commissioned to help finish the memoirs of the former British prime minister, following his predecessor’s unexpected death. Things take a turn for the worse when ex-prime minister Lang is accused of war crimes, and the unwitting ghost writer in drawn into a web of intrigue…

Part of the interest in the film is the obvious parallels between Lang and Tony Blair. Anyone with even a passing interest in British politics cannot help but notice the similarities between the two, in both career incidences and mannerisms. The film is sure to resonate with British audiences with its very topical and believable narrative.

Pierce Brosnan is perfectly cast as Lang, depicting both the charisma and smarminess associated with the former PM. Olivia Williams excels as wife Ruth, giving an engaging performance as the formidable yet frustrated partner. As the ghost writer, Ewan McGregor is a credible protagonist who viewers will side with; much what is discovered occurs from his viewpoint.

Polanski’s film is part political satire and part thriller. The beauty of The Ghost is that it is entirely conceivable; it is not by stretch of the imagination that everything that takes place could really occur. Conspiracy theorists will have a field day with what is ultimately revealed.

The narrative builds at an appropriate pace, gripping the viewer with every new discovery. Furthermore, the setting – a small island off the east coast of the United States – is perfect in providing a location which is both isolating and claustrophobic. The muted palette of the island cinematography adds to this atmosphere of seclusion.

Although Polanski is currently in the press more for his legal issues rather than his filmmaking, this should not detract from this cinematic showpiece. The Ghost is an enthralling thriller, and a welcome return to form for its director.

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Film Review: I Love You Phillip Morris

24/03/2010

The most striking thing about Phillip Morris is, as the opening titles emphasise, that the events in the film really happened. For many of these events are audacious to say the least, and make for entertaining viewing.

Philip Morris tells the story of scam artist Steven Russell and the lengths he goes to in order to be reunited with the man he loves. Some reviews have drawn attention to the fact that it is a homosexual relationship at the heart of the film. However, the fact the film is about a gay couple is incidental; it neither draws nor detracts from what the film is really about.

Carrey is takes a step outside of his comfort zone with this role. Rather than the brash, often one-dimensional roles he is often associated with, it is a risk that has paid off as the actor is engaging as the rather complex Russell. In this way in particular the film is comparable to Catch Me If You Can, as it tells the story of a character taking on a variety of guises to make up for their own lack of identity.

Though predominantly a comedy, there are still moments of genuine emotion. When Russell pulls off his biggest con there is real sadness about the situation, before the scam is revealed. Moreover, McGregor brings an earnest to his role of Phillip Morris, there is a believability about him that suggests he was perfectly cast.

I Love You Phillip Morris is an entertaining and humorous affair, but one laced with poignancy as one remembers that the events illustrated happened to real people.