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3 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Ghost Writer, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"A tight, evenly flowing thriller."
5 stars

The old sinner scores again. "The Ghost Writer," directed by Roman Polanski, is a slow-burning and elegant thriller firmly in the Hitchcock mode but with shards of cynicism that are uniquely Polanski’s.

In recent years, and particularly in The Pianist, this embattled director carves off anything inessential; the title character (played by Ewan McGregor) doesn’t even have a name. The Ghost Writer is a little long, but it moves, and aside from the obvious post-production overdubbing of R-rated language to secure the film a PG-13, this is an immaculate work, with a sardonic eye towards modern politics — specifically, modern American politics.

McGregor has been hired to ghost-write the memoirs of Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), the former British Prime Minister. The previous ghost-writer (cue the violins) drowned under mysterious circumstances. What, if anything, is tucked away inside Ghost #1’s fat manuscript that might be worth killing for? McGregor flips through the massive thing and finds only boring facts — perhaps deceptively boring. Meanwhile, Lang finds himself spattered by scandal: it seems he turned some alleged terrorists over to the CIA for the usual gentle ministrations (waterboarding, etc.). His wife (Olivia Williams) appears exasperated by the whole situation and sets her sights on McGregor, who’s almost too busy chasing down old names from Lang’s Yale yearbook to respond to her brittle charms.

Adapting a novel by Robert Harris (who co-wrote the script with him), Polanski turns The Ghost Writer into a meditation on the slipperiness of truth, especially truth in the political sector. The parallels between Lang and Tony Blair are impossible to miss, though Lang, whose college training was in drama, seems to be playing a man of power rather than actually being one. Brosnan’s performance is full of odd anger barely held in check. Out of office now, Lang feels impotent — maybe he felt impotent while in office — and he takes the charges against him as a needling affront. He is hounded by the media and protesters, and if he goes back to his home he may be arrested. Sound like any directors we know?

Like any good thriller director, Polanski identifies more with the hero, McGregor; we don’t feel any special sympathy for Lang, though his predicament mirrors Polanski’s on the surface. The take-away is that Lang must lie in the bed he made. The Ghost Writer isn’t just the McGregor-Brosnan show; people like Eli Wallach, Timothy Hutton, and a bald, nearly unrecognizable James Belushi pop in for brief, bright appearances, and Tom Wilkinson strikes just the right aristo-intellectual note as one of Lang’s old Yale buddies. Only Kim Cattrall, gamely struggling with a British accent like a woman trying to hold onto an umbrella in a high wind, lets us down. But Polanski, who turns 77 this year, keeps chugging ahead, dropping everything into place with the suppleness of a director half his age. The final shot will go down as one of the best this year.

A man can be a monster in private and a master in his work. On the evidence here, Polanski is still a master.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20170&reviewer=416
originally posted: 04/04/10 21:30:43
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User Comments

8/31/12 Sean Harrison Amazingly gripping, considering it belonged to my least favorite genre of thriller. 5 stars
4/10/11 R.W. Welch Nicely concocted conspiracy flick tho the ending was a little too pat. 4 stars
12/12/10 Monday Morning Lots like "Michael Clayton" but not as good. Worth a look tho'. 4 stars
9/23/10 e nathanson taut drama, excellent performances,confusing ending 4 stars
8/29/10 Sevarian Excellent--an ending as futile as Chinatown 5 stars
8/21/10 the dork knight Classic Hitchock style thriller. Brosan's lair is damn creepy. 5 stars
8/14/10 matt worth a look or 3. certainly polanski at his best. great performances and cinematography 4 stars
7/26/10 Langano Well done. Polanski keeps up the tension throughout. 4 stars
5/08/10 mark reinhardt one of the best movies in the past few years. puts it right up there with Chinatown. 5 stars
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  19-Feb-2010 (PG-13)
  DVD: 03-Aug-2010


  DVD: 03-Aug-2010

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