Review: Ghosted (2011)

Ghosted, a gritty and brutal prison drama, is the feature length debut from camera-operator and short filmmaker Craig Viveiros. The film centers on Jack (John Lynch), a model prisoner who has kept his head down and is close to completing his time. However, after his wife leaves him for another man, his final lifeline comes in the form a new, naive prisoner, Paul (Martin Compston). When Paul falls under the influence of the psychotic Clay (Craig Parkinson), Jack soon finds he must risk his own life and sanity to help the newcomer survive.

The action opens strongly, with a respectably concise introduction to the central characters. It may be sparse on dialogue, but it sets the film up well, despite the already overbearing cliches. From here, however, when it should be establishing a new take on the prison drama, it settles into a dull pace, full of easy to foretell twists, inmates with perennial problems, battles between characters for prison dominance and an ending that feels all too contrived to make any sort of lasting impact. The running time – clocking it at over 110 minutes – is ridiculous, and doesn’t do the overall product any favours.

Thankfully, then, Viveiros’ direction is something to celebrate, even managing to distract attention from the commonplace plot strands on several welcomed occasions. Apart from the overuse of self-indulgent mirror shots and unnecessary slow-motion, Ghosted is a pleasantly competent and accomplished piece of filmmaking, with some particularly striking and well executed scenes breaking up the strong sense of familiarity that runs throughout – most notably the merciless shower scene, a scene that represents Jack’s problems drowning him, and an incredibly brutal encounter towards the end that will have you flinching in your seat.

The acting is possibly Ghosted most noteworthy distinction. Compston, who’s been on the rise since being plucked from obscurity to star in Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen and was dazzling in last years shamefully underrated The Disappearance of Alice Creed, impresses as the emotionally disjointed Paul, while Parkinson delivers a fittingly admirable performance as the volatile Clay. But it’s Lynch as the unhinged Jack, who steals the show, bringing a truly tremendous level of depth and nobility to Jack’s damaged soul, particularly in the absorbing scenes shared with Compston’s Paul.

While acted in a more than satisfactory mannor and technically effective, Ghosted sadly fails to break free of vastly overdone prison drama cliches, instead becoming an overwrought and predestined misfire.

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