The Ghost Writer - Film Review

Posted on 19. Feb, 2010 by in Film/TV

by Todd Gilchrist

“Forget about it, Jake, it’s the CIA.” Perhaps needless to say, this isn’t actually a line from The Ghost Writer, but Roman Polanski’s latest film shares much in common with his 1974 masterpiece Chinatown, not the least of which being a resignation to the larger, impenetrable machinations of a system that was in place long before its main character tried to pull back the curtain on it. A grown-up mystery that reminds audiences why Polanksi is a filmmaker whose professional profile deserves to stay in the spotlight, The Ghost Writer is a creepy, captivating thriller and the year’s first great movie.

Roman Ploanski and Pierce Brosnan film Ghost Writer

Ewan McGregor plays a ghost writer who discovers some disturbing secrets when he’s hired to rework the memoirs of disgraced former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). Despite professing zero interest in politics, The Ghost begins to question this faustian pact, first when Lang gets indicted by the World Court for alleged crimes against humanity, and then when a relationship develops between himself and Lang’s wife Ruth (Olivia Williams). As Lang attempts to protect his public image, The Ghost continues to investigate his personal background, eventually uncovering information that not only makes him part of the story he’s supposed to be telling, but puts his very life at risk.

There are a number of parallels in Lang’s story that any follower of Polanski’s personal life will probably recognize, not the least of which being the deterioration of his public image, and his hand-wringing over whether or not to face trial or flee to neutral territory. But suffice it to say that the director isn’t deconstructing his own life, but crafting a thoughtful, mature thriller that examines all of the real-world implications of its subject matter even as it chronicles the made-up (if likely equally real) mysteries of behind-closed-doors deals between governing bodies and the organizations that broker them. Meanwhile, Robert Harris’ adaptation of his own novel both exploits and subverts expectations that come with an exploration of this world, showing how even a seasoned purveyor of narrative conventions succumbs to obvious storytelling twists and turns despite appearing to be fully aware of them.

Ewan McGregor in Ghost Writer

Further, Polanski shoots the film with glorious, clear-eyed style, thanks to classical set-ups and the dexterous cinematography of Pawel Edelman (The Pianist), updating the style but preserving the substance of his earlier movies, not to mention those of ‘70s compatriots like Alan J. Pakula or Sydney Pollack. The Ghost Writer feels like a classic even though it’s thoroughly modern; a plot point even revolves around an automobile’s turn-by-turn GPS, for goodness’ sake. But it’s Polanski’s mastery of form and technique, along with his sophistication as a storyteller, and especially, his respect for the audience, that makes his latest so memorable, even if his ultimate point is a sad one – namely, that sometimes forgetting the truth is the best way to stay safe.

Rating: star The Ghost Writer   Film Reviewstar The Ghost Writer   Film Reviewstar The Ghost Writer   Film Reviewstar The Ghost Writer   Film Reviewblankstar The Ghost Writer   Film Review 4 Stars out of 5

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One Response to “The Ghost Writer - Film Review”

  1. Todd

    19. Feb, 2010

    Despite of Polanski’s personal short comings, he truly is a masterful director.

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