I am not a big Polanski fan, because I'm squeamish, and outside of Hitchcock films, I don't like having my nerves played on for two hours.
But this film is a MUST SEE, in my book.
I heard (this may not be true...) that it was AFTER Polanski finished this film that the Californian judge resurrected his dossier, with the consequences that most of us know.
Polanski is now under the equivalent of house arrest in Switzerland ; who knows whether he will be extradited or not...
I am not going into the issues surrounding the person of Roman Polanski here.
The film adroitly weaves together an intrigue involving a thinly disguised Tony Blair, who has summoned a nobody ghost writer to continue work on his autobiography, after the initial ghost has met with an unfortunate "accident". While the entire film is a fiction, its context is an historical one. A film/ovni a bit like "The Queen", which I already reviewed here, in an exposé about constitutional/divine right monarchy.
In the course of his assignment, the new "ghost" uncovers troubling facts about his predecessor's death, and is caught up in the political scandal that erupts when the former Prime Minister is accused of authorizing rendition and torture, and comes up for investigation by the International Criminal Court. Our "ghost", secluded in a high security compound on Cape Cod, finds himself inextricably entwined in the passions of his hosts during a political and personal crisis.
What is really remarkable about this film is that AT NO POINT IN TIME does ANY CHARACTER become caricature.
The people who do what they do BELIEVE IN what they are doing/did. Adam Lang, accused of authorizing torture, has an EXCELLENT justification for doing what he did, authorizing torture. He is NOT a monster, not an idiot. He is a.. MAN. With his weaknesses, and his strong points.
These people are not cynically going through the motions, the way we are tempted to believe.
The people who contest him, the bloodthirsty crowd waiting outside his compound to accuse him of being a monster... contains one man who has lost his son in the Irak war.
Another man who is NOT a monster. Who.. believes in what he is doing. Who believes that he is RIGHT to be doing what he does. Bringing Lang to "justice"...
No more/no less, fanatic than some.. terrorists who also believe in what they are doing.
And THIS "fanatic" is supporting the International Criminal Court... Like the bloodthirsty crowd calling for Lang to be judged.
The U.S./U.K. governments do not come out of this film smelling like a rose, and you will see the extent of the totalitarian folly that is omnipresent in the continual obsession about security, and the high tech explosion that accompanies it.
Oddly enough, money takes a firm SECOND place here next to belief as the reason that "explains" WHY we do what we do on this earth... Polanski is an.. idealist. Me too.
This film is NOT diversion/entertainment.
But it is not "glauque" either, as we say in French. There is nothing depressing about it, even if the end is NOT Walt Disney.
It is a meat and potatoes film. Like... Desert Flower.