The prison drama has been done over and over and over again, with typically varied results. Some leave a lasting impression as all-time classics (The Shawshank Redemption springs to mind) while others do little to stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately Craig Viveiros’ debut feature film Ghosted falls into the latter category.
At the end of a very long prison sentence and with only three months to go, world-weary Jack sits patiently waiting to be released. However, one day the timid Paul is transferred to his wing and before long gets himself involved with the wrong crowd. With only a few months left to go Jack takes it upon himself to try and keep Paul safe.
Ghosted is far too typical and predictable to make any sort of lasting impression in the film world. It might hit you hard with emotion and raw power with a scene or two – and credit goes to Viveiros for pulling that off even once (especially with this being his first film) – but the trouble is we’ve seen this sort of thing done dozens of times before and far better. You can almost get your checklist out of what scenes are going to crop up throughout the relatively short 98 minute runtime: scared new inmate struggling to cope, him being lulled into a false sense of security with who turns out to be the ultimate bad guy of the prisoners, the obligatory shower rape scene and just about every other cliched prison movie scene you can think of. Even the ending can be seen coming by about 20 minutes into the film (another one of those trite plot conveniences which are downright eye-rolling). In a way it could be described as a “safe” film.
The film is made entirely watchable, however, by some solid performances by the likes of rising Scottish star Martin Compston as the struggling Paul, John Lynch as the tough but helpful Jack, and Craig Parkinson as the (unoriginal) prison badass. Also Viveiros’ assured direction gives the film as a sense of purpose (he is clearly a better director than he is a writer) and the “soft” look of the film off-sets the brutal goings on in a way which allows you to almost feel like you’re just another prisoner right alongside these men.
Ghosted definitely has some things going for it and when it works – mainly in its scenes of shocking brutality – it really works. But unfortunately the film does little, if anything, to break out from the mould and becomes “just another prison drama.” Shame.