GHOST WRITER, THE
When a successful British ghost-writer, The Ghost (Ewan McGregor), agrees to complete the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), his agent Rick (Jon Bernthal) assures him it's the opportunity of a lifetime. But the project seems doomed from the start - not least because his predecessor on the project, Lang's long-term aide, died in an unfortunate accident. In a world in which nothing and no one is as it seems, The Ghost Writer quickly discovers that the past can be deadly-and that history is written by whoever stays alive to write it.
Review by Louise Keller:
From page turning novel to gripping, edge of seat thriller, The Ghost Writer is a taut, superbly made highly cinematic film filled with intrigue and tension. Roman Polanski uses all his skills to bring together the elements for a hit of suspense. First of all, there is the power of the source material: best-selling author Robert Harris' novel, which he and Polanski have adapted into a succinct screenplay.
We are onboard from the outset as a car ferry makes its bumpy journey crossing in teeming rain under pessimistic, grey skies. There is a riveting sense of expectation, buoyed by Alexandre Desplat's jumpy, unpredictable score, whose effective use of xylophone adds an eerie touch. A dead body, a commission, an investigation, political intrigue, adultery, a cover-up and foul play are some of the elements in this exhilarating story that zigzags from left to right and keeps us guessing as pieces of the puzzle slowly fall into place.
Ewan McGregor, perfectly cast as The Ghost, is in top form as the writer thrown head first into the deep end, when he takes on a lucrative assignment to rework the biography of the former UK Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). Lucrative it might be, but he quickly discovers there are downsides: isolation, tight security, tension, media pressures and paranoia. When he tells Adam's assistant Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall, excellent), 'This place is Shangri-La in reverse', we know exactly what he means. Tempers are frayed and the strain in the relationship between Adam and his politically savvy wife Ruth shows (Olivia Williams, in a perfectly judged performance). Other contributions are from Tom Wilkinson as Paul Emmett, Adam Lang's college acquaintance and Eli Wallach, who is memorable as the old resident who observes from afar.
McGregor's The Ghost effectively is walking in the footsteps of a dead man, a fact accentuated when he moves into the room of the dead ghost-writer he has replaced. The island setting (near New York) is claustrophobic, as is the house whose huge glass windows seem to embrace the stormy seas outside. There's a duality and undertone to everything and everyone and we, like The Ghost, are kept on our toes, as we feel the swirl of uncertainty, like the squalling rough seas.
Polanski expertly brings all the story strands to a conclusion with such polish, yet with the power of understatement, which ultimately makes this thriller fly.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
One of the best story tellers around, Robert Harris, provides the basic materials and Roman Polanski does a great job executing the adaptation (co-written with Harris) of this riveting thriller with a double whammy punch. In what is part detective story part political thriller, The Ghost Writer is built on recent world events in an imaginary scenario that is not so fanciful as to be incredible. But we discover that only at the end.
Without giving too much away, the story revolves around the ex UK Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan) writing his memoirs but needing a real writer to help him; before the book is finished, a political scandal about him breaks out in the world's media, with potentially dire consequences for him. The newly-commissioned writer (Ewan McGregor) is caught up in the turmoil as he begins to uncover vital secrets - also with dire consequences. Apart from my minor reservation about the execution of the ending, Polanski doesn't put a foot wrong, either in storytelling or in maintaining the mood.
The casting is superb: Ewan McGregor has never been better as 'The Ghost' who is hired to improve the ex Prime Minister's memoirs, and Pierce Brosnan is excellent as Adam Lang, the retired but not retiring PM, ensconced on a remote island off the East coast of America - a sort of safe house as the international scandal erupts about some of his past actions in the war on terror. Olivia Williams is sensational as his brittle wife Ruth, who has a few secrets to match her husband's and Kim Cattrall is memorable as Lang's very private secretary, Amelia.
Timothy Hutton and James Belushi shine in key support roles, as do all the cast, as Polanski's adroit direction brings out the best in all of them. Polanski's natural feel for dense thrillers involving relationships has always been his forte, and he's well assisted by marvellous camerawork from Pawel Edelman and a stirring score by Alexandre Desplat.
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GHOST WRITER, THE (MA)
CAST: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, John Bernthal, Tim Preece, James Belushi, Timothy Hutton, Anna Botting, Tom Wilkinson
PRODUCER: Roman Polanski, Alain Sarde, Robert Benmussa
DIRECTOR: Roman Polanski
SCRIPT: Roman Polanski, Robert Harris (novel by Robert Harris)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pawel Edelman
EDITOR: Herve de Luze
MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Albrecht Konrad
RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 12, 2010