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Movie Reviews

Film Review: “The Ghost Writer”

(Summit Entertainment. 2 hours, 8 minutes. Rated PG-13 for language, brief nudity/sexuality, some violence and a drug reference. Directed by Roman Polanski.) Ewan MacGregor (The Ghost), Kim Cattrall (Amelia Bly), Olivia Williams (Ruth Lang), Pierce Brosnan (Adam Lang), Timothy Hutton (Sidney Kroll), Tom Wilkinson (Paul Emmett), James Belushi (John Maddox), Eli Wallach (Old Man). Music by Alexandre Desplat.

Well-done political thriller which many critics are likening to Polanski’s great Chinatown. I wouldn’t go that far, but I’d compare it to his lesser-known movie with Harrison Ford, Frantic, as well as some Chinatown-era movies of the 1970s such as Sydney Pollack’s Three Days of the Condor and Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View. MacGregor (whose character never has a name) is a successful British ghostwriter who’s persuaded by his pushy agent to travel to the U.S. to complete the potentially-explosive memoirs of a former Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Brosnan). What seems like a great opportunity is tainted by the fact that the previous “ghost” really became one: he died under mysterious circumstances. Complicating matters, Lang is then accused of collusion with the CIA while he was in office in enabling the U.S. government to torture suspected terrorists.

Aaaaand, there’s a possible love triangle with Lang, his prickly-yet-attractive wife (Williams), and his personal assistant Amelia (Cattrall, with a slightly-wavering British accent, a bit strange since she was born in Liverpool). The Ghost senses more trouble when, ensconced in Lang’s fortress-like house on Cape Cod to work on the memoirs, finds that Lang’s called away a lot, leaving him alone with Ruth. Robert Harris, who wrote the novel on which the story is based, was a political aide with ties to real-life former PM Tony Blair, whom Adam Lang is supposed to evoke. The movie has a Hitchcockian sensibility (i.e., an ordinary man finds himself in extraordinary circumstances; his instinct tells him to get out, but he wants to solve the mystery). It’s aided by the performances, the atmospheric production design, a crackling script, and Desplat’s Herrmann-like score. It’s nice to see the gifted and handsome MacGregor in a movie which matches his talents. A shout-out to Eli Wallach, who seems to be having a career resurgence at age 94. The Ghost Writer is a very good little movie, made for adults, and Polanski’s best effort in years. It won’t stay with you, like Chinatown does, but you’ll enjoy it while it lasts.