Tony Ward (Anthony Mark Streeter, The Wind That Shakes the Barley) is out of prison, a former mob thug whose ten years behind bars has left his life in tatters with a wife who doesn't want to see him, a son who may very well be headed down the same path, and some old "acquaintances" who wouldn't mind catching up to him.
Written and directed by Anthony Z. James, Ghost has the look and feel of your usual Brit action/thriller but Streeter's work here is more patient and contemplative than we usually see for this kind of motion picture. James practically bathes us in silence over the film's first few minutes. They're minutes that find Tony released from his prison stint and into a world that we know is familiar yet we can tell feels vastly different.
Ghost is a film that just oozes atmosphere, a gritty and beautiful creature that exposes a more urban London that feels somewhat reflect of Tony's own internal urban decay. Shot on an iPhone 8 with an anamorphic lens, Ghost presents a world that feels lived in with hints of its darker underbelly always bubbling underneath the surface.
As Tony, Streeter is mesmerizing. From the moment we meet him, Tony has this aura of resignation that tells you he knows he's wasted his life and yet he's unsure if redemption can be found. Streeter has a sympathetic stoicism about himself and those first few moments make you feel the pain he's built up over his 10 years of incarceration. Nathan Hamilton also shines as Conor, Tony's son, who still seems to idolize the father he's never really known while having inherited his father's cocksure swagger and bragadoccio. He's got a pregnant ex-girlfriend and a brashness that you can just feel is about to get him in trouble.
Trouble starts to arrive, indeed, in the form of two low-level hoods, Rob (Calum Speed) and Artur (Lev Levermore), and the brutal boss they work for, Dom (Russell Barnett, Wonder Woman 1984), whose role develops in eerie and frightening ways over the course of the film's nearly 90-minute running time.
Ghosts abound in Ghost - Tony's ghosts are largely his past and the choices he's made, while in many ways he's the ghost for the son he's never known but who seems ill-fated living in the dark shadow of his father. The other characters, as well, have their own ghosts and these ghosts come alive in life-changing, course-altering ways. James seems to be saying that these ghosts are always there, though it's often up to us whether we allow them to truly haunt our lives or we turn them into something different.
In addition to the terrific performances by Streeter and Hamilton, Barnett is simply stellar in disturbing ways as a crme boss with a calm demeanor yet a taunting brutal streak. Emmy Happisburgh shines as Valerie, Tony's wife and Conor's mother, who has tried to go on with her life and fears it being disrupted once again. Severija Bielskyte also turns in a terrific performance as Kat.
Nikolaj Polujanov's original score is sparse yet meaningful, while James's own lensing, as noted, is practically an unsung character all its own. While much of Ghost is practically meditative, James amps up the drama and the conflict in the film's closing scenes as inevitable conflicts must be dealt with and James lets them play out with brutal integrity and impossible to forget action.
For those seeking non-stop action, Ghost may be a tad disappointing but for those who appreciate an emphasis on the characters amidst the action that unfolds this is an engaging thriller with a sort of lyrical quality that locks you into its rhythms and holds onto you until the story's finally been told.
You can catch Ghost for yourself on Amazon Prime.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic