The Ghost Writer
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Hutton and James Belushi
Director: Roman Polanski
Scriptwriters: Robert Harris and Roman Polanski based on the novel by Robert Harris
Composer: Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography: Pavel Edelman
Rating: PG 13 for language and themed material
Running Length: 129 minutes
Have you ever taken a road trip with close friends only to find the destination paled in comparison to the journey itself? That is pretty much how the new political thriller from writer/director Roman Polanski felt. A solid cast with on screen chemistry that engages you and bonds you instantly. But a story that in the end has you shrugging your shoulders and thinking, “that’s it? Ok, let’s go home.”
Ewan McGregor plays The Ghost Writer who is hired to adapt the memoirs of a former British Prime minister, Adam Lang, (Pierce Brosnan) after the previous ghost dies from an apparent suicide. Locked away with the Lang family and their staff at a remote beach house with only four weeks to finish, The Ghost Writer begins to uncover truths and facts that put his life in danger. Add to this an allegation of war crimes against Lang and you get what is a not too shabby thriller with a taste of political intrigue.
The film has a steady rhythm to it and enough witty dialogue that makes it part Hitchcock and part Woody Allen. Once you find the pacing you enjoy the film that much more. It is a serious story and the political intrigue is well placed and not over bearing. Yet McGregor’s character is written in a way that allows him to have fun with the role. From the opening scene you are dropped right into the middle of the plot with very little set up. This helps propel the story forward and gets you to the meaty part quickly.
This was a good role for Brosnan. His character is charming but with a hint of underlying deception. He looks good on camera but you still know he is a snake in the grass and not to be trusted. Tom Wilkinson who is one of the greatest dramatic actors working today has a small role as a Harvard professor but delivers one of the best scenes in the film. McGregor uses his soft spoken boyish ways to bring a naive and yet cheeky performance. Rounding off the cast is Olivia Williams as Lang’s wife Ruth. She is brilliant and delivers the goods with strength and passion.
The Ghost Writer is rated PG-13 for language, brief nudity/sexuality, some violence and a drug reference. It is intended for those 16 and up simply due to the essence of the pacing and film style. At times it progresses like a well directed stage play. The movements of the scenes and the lack of fluid segues give it that old school intrigue while the on screen banter makes it one you could easily watch blindfolded. Still, many will feel cheated once the whole thing is said and done. There is almost a ho-hum feel that makes you wonder if Polanski just got tired of writing it and ended where he was. For that reason it only gets 3.5 out of 5 ferry tickets. A decent film but, at no fault of the cast, forgettable none the less. So says Matt Mungle.
Review copyright 2010 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.
As I was watching The Ghost Writer, I was picturing it in my mind as a 1930’s black and white film, based on stories by Agatha Christie. There is plenty of rain, bicycles for transportation, fog, gray days, seaside’s and shadowy places. This film is not a Christie story, but the mood is set by director Roman Polanski, composer Alexandre Desplat and cinematographer Pavel Edelman. It is a slower-paced movie, and stay with it for the first 45 minutes until you get the characters in your head. There are twists and turns, intrigue and all well-acted, especially Ewan McGregor as the ghost writer, who has to step into another ghost writer’s shoes to finish a job. Also, watch for an almost-unrecognizable James Belushi as a higher-up in the book publishing business. Only his voice gives him away.
The plot has McGregor as a ghost writer who is asked by a friend to finish a tell-all autobiography by a former British Prime Minister (played by Pierce Brosnan). Brosnan’s wife, Olivia Williams, is the PM’s confidante and he always asks for her advice. The first ghost writer mysteriously drowned, presumably while drunk. Ewan, for a wad of money, takes on the job and finds himself working at the PM’s hideaway in New England. The views of a rain-tossed ocean are spectacular. Back in Britain, the former PM is under investigation for so-called torture work done during his time in office. For such secret and power material, it is loosely carried through the movie as many sheets of paper in a packet and not in a thumb drive or disk. When traveling with this material, it certainly hampers one’s ability to run.
Ewan begins to suspect something murderous happened to the first ghost writer, and when investigating, comes upon damaging evidence both concerning the death and concerning the PM’s past. In the meantime, hovering nearby are security men, the PM’s wife with a glass of wine, and the PM’s secretary, an efficient Kim Cattrall. Tom Wilkinson is an enemy of the PM who is also lurking nearby. The whole situation comes together, but not in the way you might think, just like an Agatha Christie novel.
Ewan McGregor is great as the young writer who finds he is in over his head. His facial expressions are right on target and the camera takes us with him on his investigations. Pierce Brosnan is a dramatic PM who cuts a flair in public, but in private has quite a temper. Olivia Williams, as the PM’s wife, has a sharp tongue and temper, also. She plays the kind of woman you would avoid at any gathering. Kim Cattrall is the faithful aide who has all information at her fingertips. In the PM’s hideaway, which resembles a bunker from WWII, there is no warmth, only intrigue and cold reasoning. The chill is felt from the screen to the audience. This is big politics at work.
I enjoyed The Ghost Writer. There is a cameo appearance by Eli Wallach and only a familiar smile gave him away. The press is shown as overly eager, complete with helicopters, and with so much security around, who can you really trust? There are beautiful moments such as when Ewan takes off down a rain-slick road in the fog, riding a bicycle. You want to say, “Look out,” but your voice is lost in the mist. Or when he looks in his rear-view mirror and sees a large, black car following him on another lonely road. Can he drive faster in his small car or out-think the pursuers? The Ghost Writer is quality entertainment accomplished by a talented cast, crew and director.
Copyright 2010 Marie Asner
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