Review: The Ghost Writer
PLOT: “The Ghost” is a successful ghost writer who can turn any mess of words into a best seller. When he is hired by ex-British Prime Minister Adam Lang, this ghost uncovers a checkered past. With the help of clues left behind by the previous ghost writer who mysteriously died, he begins to find that there may be some dirty little secrets hidden away. Soon, he finds a possible connection between Lang and the U.S., supporting the torture of suspected terrorists. As protestors and the media begin to dig deeper, the ghost begins to question his involvement to this powerful man with a dangerous past.
Whatever your thoughts on Roman Polanski are in regards to his personal life, there is no denying his talent for storytelling. He has a gift for creating intelligent, thought-provoking thrillers that often stand the test of time. With THE GHOST WRITER, he creates a very unique sense of paranoia and fear, strongly underplayed, yet most certainly compelling. This world of conspiracy and lies, while at times a bit melodramatic, makes for one terrific thriller. While you would probably call it more of a thinking man’s thriller, being that many of the clichés found in this type of film are absent here. Sure there is a “chase sequence” but it has an almost quiet intensity. But it is certainly more believable than the cars that keep knocking down flower carts or breaking through windows. So if you found the recent EDGE OF DARKNESS dull, this may not be your cup of tea either.
When we first meet “The Ghost” (Ewan McGregor), he is being convinced by his agent (a smartly cast, John Bernthal) to take on a new job. Ex-British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) is currently looking for a ghost writer to help with his memoirs… the previous one mysteriously died. The ghost accepts the job and finds himself off to America to work with Lang very closely. He is given all the amenities he needs, but he is asked to keep the original transcript in the confines of Lang’s home. But when he finds damning evidence connecting Lang to the C.I.A. and possibly to having knowledge of the torture of prisoners suspected of terrorism, he starts his own investigation into the Lang’s past. So the stage is set in this Hitchcockian thriller where a man must decide to do the right thing or look the other way. It is also a very clear statement on Tony Blair and his involvement with George Bush and the “war on terror”.
Ewan McGregor really is fantastic as the Ghost. As he uncovers all that he wasn’t meant to uncover, he plays it with the perfect mix of subtly and curiosity. There was not a single moment that I didn’t believe in him. While he doesn’t have all that many scenes with Pierce Brosnan, the two work very well together. It is nice to see Mr. Brosnan in this type of role. The “is he or isn’t he” role is well played on his part and makes it more interesting when all things are finally revealed. A film like this, one that relies so heavily on strong performances, can really be a pleasure to watch when done right. But the good performances weren’t solely the men, I was equally impressed with both Kim Cattrall and Olivia Williams. It was especially nice to see the lovely Cattrall step away from SEX AND THE CITY and try on a more serious role as Lang’s aide.
As far as directors go, Polanski certainly creates a stylish film that is not sacrificed by lack of substance. As far as looks go, there is a very cold and grey feel to the film. Much of it takes place in Lang’s beach front home. The beautiful shots of a misty beach that lie in front of a distant lighthouse is gorgeous. But it is not just a great looking film, thankfully, he is able to inject danger and intrigue in the mix. One sequence involving a chase on a ferry boat feels completely fresh and involving. Sure there are a few moments that are downright odd, including the one sex scene in the film. In fact, that particular scene had a few people in the audience laughing out loud. But in the context of the film it made sense. It created a sort of uncomfortable tryst between the two characters involved. Definitely creating one of the most awkward seductions I’ve ever seen that didn’t come from another AMERICAN PIE sequel.
The mystery itself is not necessarily that hard to figure out. Although it is effortlessly layered throughout the film, slowly revealing the who, what and why. And if that was all the movie had going for it, there might be a problem. This is a classic mystery reminiscent of some of Polanski’s best work. The Ghost Writer is an eloquent and mysterious little movie that happens to be one of the most fascinating thrillers I’ve seen in the past few years. It works on nearly every level, so much so that even if it is light on action, it still has quite an impact. I highly recommend The Ghost Writer if you are looking for a smart and satisfying mystery that relies just as much on substance as it does style. My rating 9/10 -- JimmyO