PictureThe Ghost Writer comes to Blu-ray with a surprising, near-flawless video presentation, rendered in 1080p High Definition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.35:1. This isn't the kind of material you would normally think of for a benchmark presentation to show off your equipment with, but it is still subtly excellent and basically impossible to fault. Detail is excellent throughout, clarity resounding, the facial tones and lines as well-observed as the wooded backdrops or open island vistas. There's no edge enhancement, no digital defects, no aberrant grain or noticeable softness. The colour scheme isn't exactly stretched by any degree, the dour, rain-drenched, sun-deprived European locations not offering up anything particularly adventurous - just doom and gloom. Blacks stand up well, allowing for superior night sequences, but only the interior (largely set-based) sequences really sport anything rich in terms of colour depth. Still, that's the location chosen more than the visual representation on offer, and as renditions of low-key affairs like this go, it simply doesn't get much better.
SoundSimilarly the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track on offer is just as potent. Again, it does not have big budget Hollywood Blockbuster material to work with here, but despite having little furore and bombast, this is a remarkably well-observed and subtly nuanced mix. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, from Brosnan's casual sofa-based musings to his press release statements, always emanating from the frontal array. Effects are entirely atmospheric, but come across extremely well at all times, the track exhibiting a brooding menace that pervades the piece. Every little detail is picked up on, from the low rumble of the ghost writer's borrowed BMW to the permeating sound of the fog-horn. It is excellent, and despite the complete lack of boisterous, in-your-face events, it will consistently surprise you with its keen attention to detail. The score is the kind of peculiar thing that only Polanski would come up with: playful and intriguing, almost subconsciously building the tension as it slowly seeps into your living room. Bass might not be loud and bum-shaking, but it is commonly present and unquestionably potent. Overall it is a superb aural offering.
ExtrasThe disc only comes with three Featurettes, which really is a little bit disappointing given the advantages of the High Def Blu-ray format when it comes to delivering cutting-edge extra material. And there is no real excuse for the lack of an Audio Commentary from Polanski (or even the stars - or the author!). There's surely plenty to talk about when it comes to the production, the Director's sordid situation, and the politically charged plot, isn't there? Still, The Ghost Writer: Fiction or Reality does explore this latter theme with the author Robert Harris, The Cast of The Ghost Writer gets some input from the cast, and An Interview with Roman Polanski offers us the Director's thoughts, in particular towards one primary setting in the movie. Sure, many of the important subjects are covered fleetingly: the differences between the book and the film, the alternate ending, the allusions to Blair and the production in general - but with the Featurettes clocking in at roughly ten minutes each, there is nothing truly substantial on offer here, which is undeniably disappointing for this kind of release.
VerdictThe Ghost Writer is an intelligent and topical mystery thriller by exiled Director Roman Polanski, who proves that he's still adept at handling the genre, and still capable of infusing it with a fair share of intrigue and suspense. Still, despite this, and its having a solid central performance by Ewan Macgregor, it also has more than a few direct references and allusions to the Blair 'administration' and the Iraq fiasco, leaving the movie with very little lasting relevance or significance beyond its temporarily in-the-news themes. And oddly, I think that Polanski would have crafted a better product had there not been any direct political links, and had the characters and the story been made more accessible in their own right, rather than riding on the wave of topical furore.
On Region A-Locked US Blu-ray the movie comes with exceptional video and stellar audio - but a disappointing set of extras. Still, the presentation alone makes it a must-have for fans of the film. Newcomers who fancy an intelligent slice of slow-burning thrills should definitely consider renting this, but given the fact that it does not appear to have much latent rewatch value, test the waters first before making space in your collection.
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