Ghost Writer, The (Review)

GHOST WRITER, THE
(2/19/10; Thriller)
Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Hutton, Eli Wallach, James Belushi
SCR: Roman Polanski, Robert Harris
DIR: Roman Polanski
MPAA: PG-13 for Language, brief nudity/sexuality, some violence and a drug reference.
1 hour 49 mins
BOX: $15,541,549 (Domestic),
$60,012,087 (Worldwide)

McGregor is a successful ghostwriter who takes a gig to complete the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Brosnan), despite the fact that his predecessor died in an unfortunate accident. Much of the film unfolds at a large house on an island off the U.S. Eastern seaboard that serves as Lang’s compound. Before he can even begin, a former British cabinet minister accuses Lang of authorizing the illegal seizure of suspected terrorists and handing them over for torture by the CIA—a war crime.

It’s a busy little place. Aside from a confluence of protesters and reporters, there are hidden agendas, a secret affair or two, the discovery of the original manuscript and some nefarious backdoor dealings. The movie cannily taps into the 00’s sense of global outrage over torture but missteps when trying to shock us with a moral slipperiness that became quaint in the last century.

Polanski’s direction, as usual, is slick but not obvious. As opposed to laying on the style, the director tends to let things unfold organically, at times without any music cues or flashery. A few moments, meant to surprise, achieve this goal because of their starkness.

The outstanding cast is aces throughout, and even Cattrall’s stiff delivery and faux British accent doesn’t distract. Brosnan has become a really dependable “character actor,” especially when the character has a few things up his sleeve. And yes, that’s Belushi as McGregor’s bald publisher, holding his own against all the heavyweights. (Summit)

— DENNIS WILLIS

Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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