Movie Review: The Ghost Writer

“All the words are there; they’re just in the wrong order” explains Ewan McGregor in one of the early scenes of director Roman Polanski’s new thriller.  That is the work of a ghost writer.

It’s also the work of any creator of suspense or mystery, piecing all these various elements together in a way that is most effective.  Polanski has mastered this arrangement through the years, as he has shown in classics like Chinatown.  Perhaps his sure-handed mastery is never more evident than in his latest gem, The Ghost Writer.

McGregor is a low-brow writer who has no idea what he’s getting himself into when he takes a job assisting former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) with his memoirs.  Days after he begins work, Lang becomes the target of Middle Eastern war crime allegations.

The writer begins to inquire about the suspicious death of his predecessor and soon finds himself entangled in this web of corrupt politics.  The book which was once the task at hand has become a mere afterthought.

The worthless Kim Cattrall is the weakest point in the film as Lang’s personal assistant.  She’s constantly hitting all the wrong notes and has no purpose in driving the story forward, but Olivia Williams is a scene-stealer as Lang’s frustrated wife.

Polanski creates an intoxicating atmosphere with Alexandre Desplat’s entrancing score and some of the gloomiest gray skies this side of Shutter Island.  It’s got the old-school feel of some of the classic works of Hitchcock or, well… Polanski.  It builds slowly, keeping you in the dark and methodically revealing details until blowing the doors off with one of the best endings I’ve seen in years.

The movie also offers some interesting insight into the world of political public relations as we see Lang and his advisors trying to choose all the right phrases and expressions in an effort to spin the public’s opinion in their favor after the breaking news of the allegations.

The Ghost Writer was based on a novel called The Ghost by Robert Harris, who also adapted the screenplay along with Polanski.  There are some aspects of the story and Lang’s politics that clearly allude to a certain recent real-life British Prime Minister.

It makes me wonder if we will ever see an American filmmaker handle our Middle Eastern policies in a similar manner.  Is there anyone here who has the balls to break open that barrel of rattlesnakes?

That’s probably what makes this film so great is that Polanski can be fearless in attacking this type of subject matter.  Let’s face it, making a controversial film is the least of his worries at this point.

Rating: 9/10

RIYL: State of Play, Missing, The Constant Gardener.

8 Responses to “Movie Review: The Ghost Writer”
  1. Kaitlyn says:

    now i really really really want to see this..

  2. I think Syrianna hit pretty close to home. Fox News was in a huffy claiming it was financed by Saudi money. Figures.

  3. Think Brosnan could get a nomination for supporting?

  4. Frank, I did consider that but I remember it specifically referencing the resemblance of any key political figures (presidents, etc.). It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, so I could be wrong.

    And regarding Brosnan, I’d say there is little to no chance. He was good, but he’s still Pierce Brosnan. It was released too early in the year and was too low-key of a release for him to maintain any sort of momentum.

  5. That’s a shame. 😦 I was hoping “Tony Blairish” performance would jump start his career again.

  6. Oscars aren’t everything. Brosnan has done some very good work this year in “Remember Me” and “The Ghost Writer,” which will hopefully open up a whole new second career for him. People will see these performances and start to take him more seriously as a dramatic actor. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this side of him before.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] but this film makes three exceptional performances JUST THIS YEAR.  Count ‘em with me… The Ghost Writer, Remember Me and now, The Greatest. Good work, class… and kudos Pierce, you’ve shocked […]

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