Movie Review: The Ghost Writer

The subject matter of The Ghost Writer may be curiously close to to the life of it’s director, Roman Polanski, but it’s political allegory left me forgetting about Polanski’s recent extradition. Even though the story of a Prime Minister running to another country to escape trial does seem a little close to home.

Minus the Polanski sub-text, The Ghost Writer is about a nameless writer played by Ewan McGregor who has been hired to ghost write the memoirs of the ex Prime-Minister Adam Lang. Lang (Pierce Brosnan) is the type of politician that leaves you wondering about his true intentions, as everyone right down the help seem to be aggressively cleaning up after him.  While the money sounds good for what seems to be a simple job it might not be worth the price tag, as the last person to take on this endeavor ended up drowning and eye witnesses just happen to be in comas. As McGregor dives deeper into the life of Lang he starts uncovering secrets that he just can’t overlook.

It’s hard to walk out of The Ghost Writer with out thoughts of a certain former President and the acts that were committed while he was in charge. In that way the film plays out as more of a dream sequence to how I wish things were handled when Bush left office. Political preference aside, this political thriller keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole 2hr 8min run time. From the start of the film the audience is tuned into the corruption, just how deep it all goes is what you’re left guessing. The film has so many twists and turns that full attention is demanded and rewarded, missing even 15 minutes of the film can leave you committing the theater crime of asking your fellow theater goer “what’s going on?”

None of the deep and engaging intrigue would have worked with out the stand out acting of McGregor and Pierce Brosnan. These days Brosnan can be hit or miss and if you follow my ramblings, Brosnan’s performance as a Centaur left me saying that “I’m not sure if I’ll be able to look at him the same way ever again.” When I was writing that I didn’t think of the possibility of Brosnan delivering the performance he does in The Ghost Writer. I can suggest this film just based on the fact that his performance can cure you of the cancer that was Percy Jackson. He plays former Prime Minister Lang with the passion that I have grown up loving.

McGregor goes about playing the ghost writer in a much different tone and I’m still not sure if it completely worked for me. While his character is living in a world here, he has no clue what is going on and happens on clues just in pure luck; McGregor dwells on this fact adding comedic timing to the character’s cluelessness. In ways this works because most of the time these little one liners play right into what the audience itself is thinking, but when the film dives into more serious situations I found it hard to think of McGregor as the serious character he should be. Other than that minute fact, McGregor’s performance is as expected and at his standards that leaves nothing to complain about.

Along with Brosnan and McGregor I was surprised by the stand out acting of Olivia Williams. Most may know her from her role in Dollhouse or from last year’s indie hit An Education. In The Ghost Writer she plays the tormented wife of Adam Lang and without her spot on performance, the film would have never worked. As the seemingly broken wife, Williams delivers an intriguing performance that constantly keeps you guessing.

The thing that pulled me into this film was it’s stance on the wrong-doing of the former administration in the United States. I even caught my self nodding my head to points that Polanski was making, at that moment I knew he had me. While The Ghost Writer isn’t as moving as The Pianist, it has strong moments that make it a nice addition to other films that share the same position. I can’t say that I love this film, but unlike Polanski, I won’t run to another county to hide that I like the time I spent with The Ghost Writer.

I give The Ghost Writer 4 “Writers are not Drowning Cats” out of 5

by Ryan Davis

About Ryan Davis

Ryan is the Founder of Lost in Reviews, a member of The Kansas City Film Critic's Circle, and a key component in the movement to digitally restore the 1986 classic film The Gate. Ryan is also the co-host of Blu Monday a DVD and Blu Ray review show which Lost in Reviews co-founder Angela Davis also appears. While he may be a film and music snob, that doesn't mean you can't be friends. Well it could if you don't like the same bands or films he does, overall it might be best to avoid the subject all together.

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