Daily Archives: April 1, 2010

by Robert Harris



Like most book lovers, I prefer to read the book first, then see the movie.  But I was anxious to see director Roman Polanski’s version of Robert Harris’s thriller (retitled The Ghost Writer for the film), so this time I reversed the process.  I don’t recommend doing so.

Although the novel is very good, the movie’s images kept implanting themselves in my brain as I read.  I kept wondering, “Was this scene cut from the film?” or “Who played this character?”  It’s more satisfying to read the book, create your own mental pictures, and then see them played out on the big screen.  But never mind the movie.  Harris’s The Ghost, as Stephen King put it, has “got the goods.”


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There’s nothing more frustrating than a movie like Sherlock Holmes.

You watch it, and you’re impressed by all the loving care that went into the art direction, the special effects, the costumes, the musical score, the editing, the direction.  Hell, I was even impressed by the end credits.   And then there is Robert Downey, Jr. and his quirky, entertaining Sherlock Holmes.  Downey is a true talent, and if there’s a sequel, as I’m  sure there will be, I’ll look forward to Downey as Holmes again.

But what grates is that, with all of the millions of dollars and energy spent on the factors named above, the film itself  is only average.  It’s a mediocre movie because, once again, every expensive frill trumps what ought to be the most important element:  a good script.  It seems likely that producers instructed the writers that there was CGI for a shipbuilding yard, and spectacular effects for a bridge across London’s Thames, so be sure to build the story around those set pieces.

Stephen King recently wrote an essay about the merits and demerits of the Kindle, Amazon’s electronic reader.  “There’s a troubling lightness to the [Kindle’s] content … a not-thereness,” King wrote.  That’s similar to how I feel about modern special effects.  They look cool, but you know they’re fake, and so you spend time looking for flaws.  Unfortunately, flaws are also easy to spot in the screenplay for Sherlock Holmes.      Grade:  C+


Director:  Guy Ritchie  Cast:  Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Eddie Marsan, Mark Strong, Kelly Reilly, James Fox  Release:  2009


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