With films like “Chinatown” and “The Pianist” on his resume, director Roman Polanski has shown an ability to be diverse and talented.
The 76-year-old filmmaker puts that talent on display again with his latest film, “The Ghost Writer,” a small-scale thriller with a deep cast and a neat twist that makes it a cut above most thrillers.
Based on a novel by Robert Harris, “The Ghost Writer” tells the story of a writer (Ewan McGregor) hired to complete the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), who has retired and lives on a remote island in the United States.
Lang is at the center of an international controversy concerning torture of war criminals, but has avoided the scrutiny in his isolated existence.
The controversy deepens when the writer uncovers secrets that could change the public perception of Lang and put the writer’s own life in jeopardy.
This film has a lot of layers, which unfold in a methodical manner to allow the audience to soak in all the details. This is a grown-up talky thriller that doesn’t really have tricks up its sleeve designed to distract the audience from any of the film’s flaws or shortcomings.
The material also feels a little more authentic in the hands of Polanski, a man with a checkered past who has battled isolation for many years. He understands Lang’s plight and does a good job bringing it out in the film.
McGregor and Brosnan are also very good, headlining a first-rate cast that also includes Timothy Hutton, Olivia Williams and Tom Wilkinson.
Some people might be put off by the film’s slow pace, but it is all made worthwhile thanks to a final act that includes one of the greatest final shots in recent memory - an image and payoff that is both shocking and brimming with dark humor.
It’s the kind of moment few filmmakers can effectively capture, but Polanski pulls it off in style - showing he’s still among the best, and most diverse, directors working today.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “The Blind Side” (B), the wildly popular sports film that features an Academy Award-winning performance from Sandra Bullock.
This film tells the story of Baltimore Ravens lineman Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), who, as a homeless, undereducated black teenager, was taken in by a wealthy white Memphis, Tenn., family. With the family there to encourage him, especially the outspoken mother, Leigh Anne Tuohy (Bullock), Oher was able to overcome his limitations and realize his potential.
Like “Glory Road” and “Remember the Titans,” this film takes a true story that seems to be anything but and makes it into a rousing sports movie.
I think Aaron is quite underrated as Oher, while Bullock may be the film’s weakest link, giving a performance that I thought was nearly a caricature and not as authentic as the rest of the film. However, having seen the real Leigh Anne Tuohy in recent interviews, I’ll say I’ve softened my views on Bullock’s performance slightly.
Fortunately, this isn’t a Bullock-dominated picture like the ads suggest, allowing “The Blind Side” to be that rare film that appeals to both sports fans and fans of Lifetime movies.
“The Blind Side” is rated PG-13 for brief violence, drug and sexual references and will be available Tuesday on DVD.
— To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton’s up-to-the minute thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. You can also e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.