The Ghost Writer Review

There is an air of suspense over everything in The Ghost Writer long before the audience realizes current ghost writer, Ewan McGregor, is deeply involved. Everything is shot with a mysterious edge, from the isolated photography to the hanging camera shots. Director Roman Polanski likes to let his work brood, one of the opening views of a dead man lying on the beach as the tide washes over him remaining static for some time.

The first hour or so of Ghost Writer is peppered with shards of humor, little pieces of intelligent, witty writing in an attempt to lighten the mood. It remains uneasy even with the laughs. The Ghost is joining politician Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) to help him write his memoirs, this after the previous ghost was found dead.

It’s tricky and complicated for the Ghost who slowly unravels a string of information, but can’t quite put it together. How he figures it out is logic-stretching, a first-page Google search anyone could have done, but it resolves beautifully.

This all done without the knowledge of Lang, who leaves to travel to New York in the midst of a political crisis, openly reminiscent of Tony Blair. This sparks the beginnings of an affair between the Ghost and Lang’s wife Ruth (Olivia Williams), further complicating matters.

The Ghost Writer can be a bit sluggish. McGregor’s investigation is more of a slow build, and that tension sags with the pacing. The film regains its energy as McGregor is followed after an interview, and paranoia begins to set in. From there, it’s well charged thriller material up until the fantastic final shot.

Characters don’t always do the smart thing, McGregor especially, but the flow of information is steady enough that it doesn’t leave much time for the faults to sink in. Ghost Writer does not toy with the audience or deliver misdirection. It never lies once, just covers certain aspects leading to that critical final moment. It’s refreshingly lean material.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Summit delivers an AVC encode for Ghost Writer, one that begins with a strong impression (a close-up of Ewan McGregor), but spirals downward a bit quickly. Someone was a bit overzealous with the sharpening here, resulting in a harshly digital look and some noticeable ringing. Oddly, grain is subdued to the point where it is barely noticeable, even lost within the frame.

Few shots exhibit any kind of evidence grain reduction is at work. The only views that appear digital and processed are the green screen effects, the first at 11:35. Facial detail is firm, although inconsistent. Some of the close-ups early, including James Belushi at 8:19, look fantastic. Numerous scenes with McGregor fare well too, including 49:27. Out into the mid-range, things collapse a little, a bar patron at 36:13 appearing quite processed.

Environments do not fare much better. The forested area at 1:20:15 is decidedly rough and certainly sharpened. The docks at 1:32:51 reveal some minuscule (yet still noticeable) halos. Wild grass on the beaches appears soft and muddy. Black levels are inconsistent, fine in the opening scene that takes place inside a restaurant, and then completely faltering in the end when inside Lang’s private jet at 1:49:19. It struggles with dimensionality, the constant bombardment of digital effects to create the environment outside Lang’s home supposedly at Cape Cod (really Germany).

Ghost Writer shows it’s not just about textures and details, but more about how clear and resolved they are. It’s the second part this disc is lacking, the slight sharpening just enough to add an unnaturally crisp quality to them.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

A DTS-HD effort is fine for a dialogue-driven effort, producing well balanced conversations and minor bits of ambiance. Taking place mostly near the beach, outdoor sequences are consistently providing material for the track to work with, the incoming waves nicely placed within the sound field.

The track proves its immersive qualities about 54-minutes in as rain begins pouring down, filling each channel perfectly while light thunder claps are heard in the surrounds. The same can be said for any sequence involving the rain. A party late in the film offers light chatter in the rear channels, another nicely calibrated effect. Music is pitch-perfect, the light score expertly replicated.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Fiction or Reality is a conversation with book author Robert Harris, detailing his process and adapting it to film. Cast of Ghost Writer is a promo piece with (duh?) the cast, mostly just non-stop praise for all involved. An interview with Roman Polanski was likely recorded in his home due to his recent legal troubles, and the sound quality is rather awful because of it. In all, this adds up to about 30-minutes worth of bonus content.

Note the disc is double sided, the standard DVD on the opposing side of the Blu-ray.

Extras ★★☆☆☆