This review of “The Ghost Writer” credits the concept of the movie. A ghost writer replaces another writer hired to pen the autobiography of the former Prime Minister of Great Britain. Unabashedly linked to real life PM Tony Blair, this thriller comes packed with contemporary ethical issues, like extraordinary rendition and water boarding. The new ghost writer discovers frightening clues to why his predecessor is removed. Simultaneously, the PM finds himself the target of an international criminal investigation and media ire.
From the opening scenes, you know something mysterious and ominous has happened. So, when the writer (Ewan McGregor, fine performance) is suddenly rushed into a plum job as a ghost writer for a Tony Blair-type retired British Prime Minister (played by Pierce Brosnan), you begin to realize that the hero has just got himself into something bad, something beyond his job. He finds out that there had been a previous ghost writer, whose body we see at the start of the film. And as he meets the PM’s wife and staff, he becomes aware that there are secrets. In his work, he discovers a secret, but doesn’t know how important it is, at first. But his curiosity gets the best of him, and this turns into a “Chinatown”-like mystery, with surprises. However, I was a bit turned off by this supposedly taking place in Massachusetts, but it is obviously filmed in Europe.
Director Polanski imbues the film the Ghost Writer with his trademark stunning visuals, making the luxury home, the New England weather, and a dog-eared script supplemental characters to the flick. But the drive of the film is nearly thwarted by some creative choices, such as an unconvincing and gratuitous sex scene and failure to occasionally break-up the overall gray mood. Check out both the interviews of Polanski and the real-reel writer Robert Harris for nice insights.
Although I liked the movie, I didn’t care for Polanski’s jab at American and British policy on terrorism. He had to substitute France or Germany for the American location if I read the credits right because he is subject to arrest if he sets foot in the USA for fleeing a serious charge. There are lots of plot twists and it is a good story if you can overlook the “terrorists have rights” theme.
Simple and subtle, this is how Polanski makes the film The Ghost Writer work. Much like Hitchcock, he takes a normal man and throws him into extraordinary circumstances. The acting is uniformly excellent, with McGregor serving as the audience’s surrogate. The Ghost Writer is beautifully shot, with terrific use of CGI. If you like cerebral thrillers with a touch of humor, you will like the movie The Ghost Writer.