Review: The Ghost Writer

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The Pitch: The Secret Diary of Tony Blair, Aged 13 3/4.

The Review: It may not have been the intention when first put into production, but this film offers excellent value, giving two for the price of one on thinly veiled allegories. Not only does the the story stand as a comment on Tony Blair’s actions and relationship with the US, but also gives some sense of the isolation felt by director Roman Polanski in his Swiss house arrest.

There’s also a bargain basement of dodgy accents which offset excellent performances, including Pierce Brosnan’s intermittently chav ex-PM, Kim Cattrall’s mid-Atlantic secretary and Ewan MacGregor’s Cockney writer, who manages to sound authentic but never convincing.

The story motors along at a steady pace, but although maintaining a moderate level of tension is sorely lacking in one thing. For a film marketed as a comedy, to put all of the laughs in the trailer is unfortunate; for a film such as this with thriller aspirations to put all its thrills in the trailer is nearly unforgivable.

And any good work that the film does is undone by a couple of decisions which raised unintentional laughs at the showing I attended, one a plot development half way through that even MacGregor’s character admits out loud is a bad idea, the other the final shot, which attempts to be profound and different and just ends up feeling slightly silly – much like the film itself, unfortunately.

Why see it at the cinema: To reassure yourself that other people find some aspects as silly as you do when they laugh out loud.

The Score: 5/10

Review: I Love You Phillip Morris

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The Pitch: Liar Liar – The Prison Based Gay Love Story Cut.

The Review: Jim Carrey is from the Robin Williams School of Acting – those who have a manic energy in mainstream roles, but tend to be more restrained in smaller, less showy films. So the first positive here is that this is a smaller, less showy film with an absolutely unrestrained performance that has a satisfying undercurrent of lunacy.

The film itself is a strange hybrid of road movie and caper movie, almost as restless as Carrey himself. It takes a little while to find something to anchor the movie, but that comes along in the shape of McGregor’s Phillip Morris, who has a normality and honesty in complete contrast to Carrey’s Steven Russell.

The unreliable narrator is a well-used device, especially in modern fiction, but is given a new slant here, in that it’s Steven’s character, rather than his actual narration, that is generally not to be trusted. This does give the fim most of its forward momentum, as Steven gets into one scrape after another.

There’s a slight fear at the beginning that the tone might just be on the wrong side of mocking, especially when dealing with the gay revelations, but when Phillip arrives, this gives way to a warmer, even tone, which still allows for some fantastic set pieces, such as a slow dance in a prison cell. By the end, there’s a real emotional honesty, but then the movie at the last manages to have its cake and eat it, and leaves you smiling at the cheek of it all.

Why see it at the cinema: Because Brennan Brown, as Mr Dresden the star of those annoying Orange “turn off your mobile” ads that run before every movie in the major cinema chains in the UK, has a major part in the movie. You will think the walls of reality are starting to break down.

The Score: 8/10