GHOST WRITER, THE (director/writer: Roman Polanski; screenwriter: Robert Harris/based on the novel “The Ghost” by Robert Harris; cinematographer: Pawel Edelman; editor: Herve de Luze; music: Alexandre Desplat; cast: Ewan McGregor (the Ghost), Kim Cattrall (Amelia Bly), Olivia Williams (Ruth Lang), Pierce Brosnan (Adam Lang), Timothy Hutton (Sidney Kroll), Tom Wilkinson (Paul Emmett), Robert Pugh (Richard Rycart), James Belushi (John Maddox), David Rintoul (Stranger), Eli Wallach (Old Man), Jon Bernthal (Rick, agent), Tim Preece (Roy, editor); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Roman Polanski/Robert Benmussa/Alain Sarde/Timothy Burrill;; Summit Entertainment; 2010)
“Shows off the director’s fine filmmaking craftsmanship and even though it lacks depth it is still one of his better films in recent years.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Roman Polanski (“Rosemary’s Baby”/”Chinatown”/”Repulsion”) at 76 directs this suspenseful and seductive nightmarish political thriller, that shows off the director’s fine filmmaking craftsmanship and even though it lacks depth it is still one of his better films in recent years. It’s based on the potboiler novel “The Ghost” by Robert Harris, and is cowritten by the director and Harris. The film was shot under the unusual circumstances of the European house arrest of Polanski over a statutory rape charge from over thirty years ago in the States–whereby Polanski got permission to finish the film, but like the film’s protagonist was restricted in his travels. Because Polanski’s travel was legally restricted, he used Berlin for London and the island of Sylt in the North Sea to be a substitute for Martha’s Vineyard.
In London, the best-selling unnamed apolitical ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor), a man with no family ties who “ghosts” lightweight celebrity memoirs, gets hired for the enormous sum of $250,000, in a big publisher’s office in London, to ghost write for the next month the memoirs of the controversial disgraced ex-prime minister of Great Britain, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), now living on a remote and secure beach property in the grey and barren seacoast on Martha’s Vineyard. The previous ghostwriter, a confidant of Lang’s, nearly finished the manuscript, but died suspiciously–either from an accidental drowning or a suicide or even possibly was murdered. His body washed-up on the beach after falling off a ferry, but an elderly local woman says that it would be impossible for his body to wash up on the beach from the ferry route because the currents would go in another direction. The woman since uttering that opinion has gone into a coma. We learn this when the ghostwriter questions a frail old-timer (Eli Wallach) who lives near the beach.
The publisher wants the book edited, jazzed up with heart and marketed as a best seller to make good on his $10 million advance, while Lang and his entourage want his divisive image at home and abroad cleaned up. Lang is accused as a war criminal by the former cabinet minister(Robert Pugh) he fired and the World Court, not recognized by the United States, is looking into these charges that he ordered Brit subjects accused of being terrorists to be kidnapped and turned over to the CIA to be tortured.
The ghostwriter moves into Lang’s retreat, and gets wrapped up in the former ghostwriter’s boring, conventional and lengthy manuscript, the high-level of security on the premises, and gets to know Lang’s very bright long-suffering wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) who remains outspoken behind the scenes. The writer gets his marching orders from Lang’s attractive devious executive assistant Amelia (Kim Cattrall), who is also the charmer’s mistress. Intrigues follow involving possible secret CIA connections with the Brit officials, a conglomerate Hatherton with ties to Lang’s regime that strongly suggests Halliburton, a shady academic (Tom Wilkinson) with nefarious ties to both Langs and possibly the CIA, and some menacing surprises.
Lang has an obvious connection to former Brit prime minister Tony Blair and his support of America in their Iraq War, and how close he was to the bumbling American president.
The acting is superb by this talented cast. McGregor is perfectly cast as the smart and aggressive lightweight with a surprising conscience and a commitment for professionalism to his craft, who unfortunately is in over his head. Brosnan nails it as the smug charmer politician who excels in duplicity. While Williams, as the wily wife who is the power behind the throne, has the most difficult role and makes it a memorable one.
REVIEWED ON 4/3/2010 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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