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- Sign the Ban Blair-Baiting petition here. “He’s not a war criminal. He’s not evil. He didn’t lie. He didn’t sell out Britain or commit treason. He wasn’t Bush’s poodle. He hasn’t got blood on his hands. The anti-war nutters must not be allowed to damage Blair’s reputation further. He was a great PM, a great statesman and a great leader.”
See earlier post – Polanski’s ‘The Ghost’ – playing to an empty cinema near me. How about you?
BREAKING NEWS: BLAIR WILL BE BACK BEFORE 6th MAY
Excerpt: “He was grounded overseas by the ash crisis but I gather he is now winging his way back to Blighty,” Business Secretary Peter Mandelson told reporters in London today […] Asked if Blair would play a role in Labour’s campaign, Mandelson replied, “You won’t be disappointed.” Hmmm…
Comment at end
27th April 2010
FORMER PM’S MEMOIRS – “TONY BLAIR – THE JOURNEY … ADAM LANG – MY LIFE“
WARNING: ONLY READ THIS IF YOU DON’T MIND KNOWING THE ENDING. I FEEL NO ARTISTIC, PROFESSIONAL OR POLITICAL COMPUNCTION TO KEEP ANY OF THIS SECRET.
Watch trailer here in a new window. And don’t forget to come back here.
I know I said I wouldn’t go to see this movie but in the end I succumbed. I decided I couldn’t review or criticise without first-hand evidence. Oh, I know that’s an uncommon, perhaps unheard-of approach these days, but there we go.
And it’s been some task to know how to tackle Polanski & Harris’s The Ghost/Ghost Writer.
The Rycroft character, former British Foreign Secretary (reference the now deceased Robin Cook?) seems convinced that Blair Lang was a CIA agent. In the end it is easy to be confused as to whether or not the PM character ever was an American spy. But that’s only one of the pieces that are left hanging Polanski-style.
First, what this film isn’t:
- It isn’t a great movie in the memorable sense of earlier Polanski’s works. To be fair, only time will tell how accurate any of his plot is, or even if accuracy counts. But Polanski has failed, perhaps purposefully, to combine the jigsaw pieces into a clear picture. That may be its weakness or its strength. It may even allude to his own present situation.
- It isn’t fully politically aware despite its contention that it is.
What it is:
- It is about Tony Blair, the Iraq war decision and government (powers-beyond-powers) control.
- It is the anti-Blair/anti-Iraq war/anti-USA/anti-establishment (you choose) game at its most determined.
- It is above all, Robert Harris’s big screen adaptation of his “get Blair” fantasy. Thus I have interchanged below ‘Lang’ with ‘Blair’.
IT MAY EVEN BE POLANSKI’S GET OUT OF JAIL CARD
HOW SHOULD WE REVIEW THIS FILM?
We have some choices. We can look at it purely on its artistic merits, without regard to any persons living or dead. Or look at it in the light of the past and future of living persons, say for the sake of argument Polanski or Blair. Perhaps we need to do both. Conspiracies rule in today’s world after all, don’t they?
Polanski, it is said, is not political. In other words he doesn’t spend his time working out why Tony Blair went into Iraq. The ‘novel’ writer, the erstwhile Blair colleague Robert Harris IS political, and the film is completely based on his book with only a few minor alterations. Polanski’s present predicament and Harris’s political disillusionment both play into this film, in my humble opinion. Not to mention making a little cash on the back of someone else’s name and/or reputation.
I’ve had a dig around the websites of those who spend their time watching films. Some of the reviews I have listed below. This one from Creative Loafing has some interesting thoughts, while pointing up the shortcomings.
“The Ghost Writer’s big reveal turns out to be even cornier than Shutter Island’s anagrams: Mike McAra, McGregor’s deceased predecessor, left clues in the first word of each chapter of Lang’s memoirs that claimed that Lang’s wife Ruth was a CIA operative ever since they met. Presumably Ruth nudged her husband into politics — Lang refers to her as his most trusted adviser –and could have prompted him to make decisions in the U.S. interests at every opportunity. McAra was killed to silence him, and McGregor’s character was presumably killed off-camera in the film’s final shot.
Presumably? TWO presumptions. Firstly, Ruth Lang is the real baddie and Lang was an innocent abroad. (Well, it’s invariably some woman’s fault – remember Eve?) And ‘presumably‘ McGregor’s character was killed?
Leaving room for a sequel? But …
“We can only assume McGregor was fatally hit by a car in the final shot — we hear the sounds of an accident, and see manuscript papers scattered to the winds – but it could’ve been an accident, or not even lethal. But the only crime we definitely see, apart from Lang’s assassination, is McGregor’s mugging.”
Even if it’d be stretching it, Polanski could do without the second ghostwriter and always get another mug to finish the scribbling job. But, a ‘Ghost Writer 2’ without the guy they want to lynch still breathing seems a little superfluous.
Unless of course, Blair Lang didn’t really die. (People have been known to survive a shot in the head!) We didn’t see the autopsy, or even his body, just his bundling into a car, blood streaming from his head.
“The ghostwriter retraces McAra’s paper/Internet trail that Emmet was a CIA operative who recruited at least one of the Langs.
Adam Lang has only a few scenes in the movie, and he scoffs at the ghost writer’s accusation that Paul Emmet recruited the future politician as a member of the CIA. He could be lying, he could be innocent or he could know that he’s not in the CIA, but that his wife was: that could have been the subject of his argument with McAra before McAra’s death.”
And his argument on the plane with the present ghost writer just before he takes a bullet? Was this only about McGregor’s character denying meeting Emmett, the implied CIA manager of Blair and Ruth Lang – “Have you got something to tell me?”
“Was Lang’s murder part of the conspiracy? Lang is killed by a British military veteran outraged at his son’s death in “Lang’s war,” and is presented as a lone gunman type. Could he be in actuality a government hit man intended to silence Lang for reasons that the ghost writer never knows? We don’t know, but the timing’s certainly suspicious, isn’t it?”
Reviewing conspiratorial movies certainly feeds into that mindset. Perhaps the real former PM had better make sure he is well-guarded getting off planes until his own memoirs, The Journey, is actually in the shops.
The film/political statement concludes with an unsatisfactory ending, even for those who believe a bullet in the head is too speedy a demise for a former PM/so-called “war criminal”. Especially when the “voice from the grave” then becomes a dead hero at home, carried back in a flag-draped box like a fallen soldier.
And anon, and anon …
There were only a very few places where Blair Lang was given space for his defensive voice. But it wasn’t meant to be about anything approaching fairness or reality, was it?
In the end, the story was unsatisfactory for several reasons, and not just beause the ghost as well as the PM both bit the dust.
I can hear you from here – don’t hold back now. Tell us what you really think.
So, OK. I’ll try to be as fair as I can. Honestly I will.
All very gloomy, lonely, isolated, rainswept and windswept. It was shot in colour, but I came away with the feeling that it was very black and white in an odd sort of way.
Moody, mysterious in places. Not exactly memorable. Not at all memorable actually as in the great John Williams’ Schindler’s List, Star Wars, Jaws or Superman fashion, but suitable in its own atmospheric background sort of way.
A PM holed up on the east coast of the USA, one of the few places not signed up to the Geneva Convention. He can write his memoirs in peace there. Already drafted the memoirs. Previous writer has died mysteiously. The new Ghost Writer finds clues left behind and links to a former British foreign minister who has it in for Blair, Lang, over the Iraq war. Also a university associate of Blair’s Lang’s who seems to be cagey about the past and just how much he knows or knew Blair Lang. Love interest in the aide of Blair Lang. An unhappy Mrs Blair Lang says she doesn’t “want to be in his bloody memoirs” after spending the night with the Ghost. She says, “He’s on his own. I’ll get a divorce and she can do the prison visits”. In the end, the twist is that it is NOT Blair Lang who is the CIA agent, as Rycart, the seem-alike Foreign Secretary Cook suspected. It was Blair’s Lang’s wife, Ruth. And she was under the contol, for some unexplained reason of an old university friend of Blair’s Lang’s . It turns out that Mrs Blair Lang is the evil mastermind and not her late, now much lamented husband. Unlike in the book (as I understand it, though I haven’t read it ) it is left as un unkown as to whether Blair Lang discovers this before stopping a bullet to the head. But since The Ghost knows where all the bodies are buried, he too it seems, is disposed of in a most unlikely if timely car incident.
I thought they all did a reasonably good job, given the material – Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall and Olivia Williams. Though I was more disappointed in the aide/love interest Amelia Bly (Williams) than I thought I’d be. She came over as far too hard-edged. It wasn’t quite credible that Blair Lang would have fallen for her or even become so dependent on her. Blair’s Lang’s wife, Ruth, was far more believable.
What’s the pity is that most of these actors if not all, probably swallowed the whole Blair/Wrong/Iraq/More Wrong and the nonsensical conspiracy stories whole. (See these videos)
Well, if you don’t know that, you won’t be interested in this film. It will be interesting though to see if viewing numbers rise if and when Polanski is taken into US custody over his past child abuse. And seeing how many latch onto this facile nonsense (hidden message?) – it’s all about the nasty, powerful friends of Blair/ Bush/America/NWO/One World Government. They’re the ones who want to get Polanski behind bars.
CONFRONTATION VIDEO CLIP
Watch this “confrontation” clip near the end of the film, when the ghostwriter says to Blair Lang – “I know about you and Emmett … that he was your handler …. in the CIA.”
(Read one of the more thoughtful reviews from the above site.)
For me, the best scripted lines were these of Tony Blair Adam Lang (as accurately as I can recall them.) Firstly, when he heard he was to be accused by the International Criminal Court of war crimes over rendition:
“Ask those peace-lovers who accuse me to load two separate planes – one with passengers who have not been checked for terrorist backgrounds and the other with those who have been so checked. And then ask them which plane they’d put their own bloody kids on.”
When Blair Lang learned that the British government was co-operating with the ICC requests against him:
“If the British government wants to hand me over to this kangaroo court, then f**k ’em”.
And here, when he spoke to the press after hearing of the impending charges:
“These are strange times when those who stand for freedom are pursued” […] “While I have breath in my body I will fight terrorism on the battleground or in the courts.”
It was quite amusing how Brosnan went into Churchillian mode here. All the better to show Blair’s Lang’s “delusion”, presumably. Not sure if the former 007 actor did it well enough for most of the not that political audience to notice at my viewing, though. I suppose 20% of the audience wasn’t bad. Me.
I still don’t quite get why the former PM had to die at the end of Harris’s creative writing. Why couldn’t he just have been carted off to The Hague to be tried for his “crimes”? It’s not exactly kind, considerate, friendly or even good manners to blow someone to pieces like this. Someone he used to work closely with. I suppose Harris just wanted closure, and thought this was the best way of getting it. Either that or he’s a bloodthirsty bastard. A trial, in any case might have proved a little risky. What, horror of horrors, if the former PM had been found innocent of all charges?! Now that’s a lot of egg on a lot of faces.
All in all, in my humble opinion, if you haven’t seen this film, you haven’t missed much.
OTHER REVIEWS OF THE GHOST
- Julie wrote on the German government’s funding of this film
- Guardian: What does this obsession say about us?
- From IMDB, useful analysis on the plot
- This blog sees Polanski’s film as an act of revenge against the US for his ongoing sex charges. Possibly, but it’s Harris’s revenge (against T Blair). Useful co-incidence, maybe. The last observation is noteworthy.
- Guardian: “Unbalanced attacks on Tony Blair”
- Times, film reviews: A commenter says we’d be better advised to read the book. Hmmm…
- Mirror: Playing politics with Polanski
- Daily Record review: “Lang IS Blair”
- The Sun: “Blair is a very good performer and he really believes he never lied”
“Noose tightening for Tony Blair”. Don’t hold your breath, my friend. He will not be sacrificed to such ill-informed opinions.
- From SlashFilm: “Watching the film, I was convinced that had a “blind” screening been arranged—wherein a cinema-savvy audience was not aware of the director’s identity—hardly anyone would claim this a work by a masterful filmmaker.”
- Kayong Blogger says here: “Resonating with topical themes, this atmospheric and suspenseful political thriller is a story of deceit and betrayal on every level— sexual, political and literary. In a world in which nothing, and no one, is as it seems, The Ghost quickly discovers that the past can be deadly—and that history is decided by whoever stays alive to write it.”
- CS Monitor: “It took me a while to decipher all the whorls and curvatures in the plot, but I chalk that up to my ineptitude and not Polanski’s. The film comes together in the end in a way that makes sense of everything that came before.”
Wikipedia on reviews of this movie. Excerpt:
The film has received generally positive reviews from critics. One sour note came from John Rosenthal, who points out that the winner of Berlin’s Silver Bear received a large amount of financial support from the German federal government, which happened to be “part of the self-styled ‘axis of peace’ that opposed the Iraq War” led by Blair and George W. Bush.
EARLIER POSTS HERE ON ‘THE GHOST (WRITER)’
- Adam Lang IS Tony Blair. So, will Cherie sue Polanski & Harris?
- Mandelson watches as former PM’s brains are blown out
- Who is the REAL villain of ‘THE GHOST’? (Watch cast interviews and THEN decide)
And now for a bit of true fiction –