Just saw THE GHOST WRITER, Polanski’s latest. Besides watching the movie and trying to figure out what was second unit and shot in the U.S., and which scenes were shot on a stage someplace else… there wasn’t enough, really, to watch.
I felt sad. I love Polanski. The guy’s a great filmmaker, but he missed the boat on this one and the problem lies in the screenplay. It never should have been green lit.
The movie’s barely in theaters now, so I don’t feel bad by spoiling anything. Not that there’s that much to spoil. The best thing in it is Olivia Williams, pitch perfect as always. And Kim Cattrall does a hell of a job being English. Anyway.
The title of this discourse is about the problem. If it’s a movie, it has to be big. Big enough to be fifty or a hundred feet wide. This story is not about anything we care about. It’s all too bloody intellectual. There’s nothing in the hero’s problem, or the bad thing the bad guy did (a LONG, long, long time in the past) that makes the hair stand up on your neck. Nobody gives a tinker’s damn.
The giant reveal at the end is that… someone you didn’t suspect was, in the 1970s, recruited to be a CIA agent! Wow. They worked for the CIA and we never knew it… Gee… How earth shattering.
The engine-driving-the-movie-thing you worry about Pierce Brosnan’s character is “did he, way back when he was Prime Minister, authorize prisoners to be tortured to stop terrorism?” We never see it. No friends of ours are tortured. It all happened before the movie even started. Years before. Why do we care? Why hang an entire screenplay on something as thin as an intellectual debate on rendition? I know torture is bad and we shouldn’t do it and in the end it serves no good (witness France and their boneheaded handling of torture during the Algerian revolution) but all this stuff was long ago, off screen and only involved a nod or a signature on a piece of paper by the Brosnan character.
How is that worth making a movie about?
If you’re going to take all that time to tell a story, tell one that’s going to really grab us by the throat and not let us go. Make it be about something bigger than a nod or a signature. Make it happen on screen.
But make it BIG or it’s not a movie.