Movie Review Rewind: The Ghost Writer (2010)
The Ghost Writer is Roman Polanski’s first film since the flop of Oliver Twist. So, it has been about five years since he has released a film. Over the past year or so, most people know about Polanski because of his personal problems. Everyone understands that he is a very controversial man, but also a very talented director. We must be able to separate the two.
The Ghost Writer is a political thriller full of paranoia. Former Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) is not liked by his country and that’s putting it nicely. He is accused of authorizing the illegal seizure of suspected terrorists and turning them over to be tortured by the CIA. So if there is any truth to that then Lang has committed a war crime.
Lang is a controversial man himself. He’s working on completing his memoirs, but his first ghostwriter ends up dead in the sea. So, he brings in another successful ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) to finish the job. However, he has no idea what he has gotten himself in to. As McGregor’s character, The Ghost (his real name is never revealed), starts to retrace the steps of his predecessor, he uncovers new clues. Every person he encounters becomes a new threat. Another piece of the puzzle.
Polanski creates this world full of mystery and suspense. Some of the characters seem shady as soon as they appear on the screen. Lang is trapped in an oceanfront house off the U.S. Eastern seaboard. The manuscript is kept in a desk that has a code and can only be opened by a specific card swipe. And as the story goes along, you realize how important this book is about Lang and what answers it may provide. The film feels like everyone is up to something and there are too many hidden secrets.
Ewan McGregor is great in the film. As soon as he arrives to complete the book, he does not have a very good feeling about it at all. That only gets worse as he digs deeper in to what is really going on. McGregor plays a ghostwriter and a detective. He is performing a juggling act and it works. He brings both dry humor and precise panic in one particular scene. When his character is surprised, so are you. It is really great to see McGregor in some nice roles such as this and in The Men Who Stare At Goats.
Pierce Brosnan delivers a great performance that seems inspired by Tony Blair. Brosnan is the guy who has to hold a lot in. You know he has secrets, but his character has to carry those with him. And Brosnan is able to balance the politics part of Adam Lang and the personal side of him as well. There are a few scenes where Lang comes across as simply haunting. And this is a compliment to Brosnan because when his character comes on-screen and he can get those feelings across to the audience, he is not playing the man but is the man.
There are great supporting roles played by James Belushi, Kim Cattrall, Timothy Hutton and Tom Wilkinson. But Olivia Williams really takes control of every scene she is in. She plays Lang’s wife and she knows a lot about her husband, including the affair he has been having with Kim Cattrall. But she is still with him and he still asks for her advice. She seems to be the only person in the house who has her suspicions about what happened to the first ghost writer. And perhaps she can be of some help to Ewan McGregor.
I really loved the mood and pace of this film. Roman Polanski went back to the formula that Alfred Hitchcock used. There are all of these feelings of having suspicions, hiding secrets and corruption, and murder that surround the film. And Polanski lets all of these things build and build until the top blows off. The suspense keeps building and when the real story starts to unfold there are answers to be found.
The Ghost Writer sets you up to feel one way about these characters and the situation that they have found themselves in. But be careful with your judgements because they may not be who you think they are. This film is one of those where after it is over you will want to watch it again. And on the second viewing you will be more attentive on who said what and who gave what information.
The film is full of tense moments and mystery. It makes you think about what you have just witnessed. And do not be surprised if you catch yourself thinking about The Ghost Writer long after you have left the theater and are sitting at home.
“Nature Boy” Brandon Vick is the resident film critic of the SoBros Network, and star of Brandon’s Box Office In Your Mouth. Follow him on Twitter@SirBrandonV and be sure to search #VicksFlicks for all of his latest movie reviews.