The Ghost Writer Review

ghost writer movie review film

Brief Summary

A professional ghost writer is offered the chance to work on the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister following the mysterious drowning of the previous author.

1984

Based on the polemic novel The Ghost by Robert Harris, the film is very true to it’s roots – Harris and director Roman Polanski worked on the screenplay together, as they had on a screenplay for Harris’ other book Imperium. This movie is enjoyable without it’s context outside of fiction but for those who want to know (and don’t already know) the Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) is a kind of Tony Blair characateur – though Harris (who was a Blair supporter up until the war in Iraq) himself points out a number of differences, and calls both Blair and Lang tragic heroes, it is undoubtedly a critique and revue of a world leader who became out of touch. In any case the film isn’t constrained to this narrative, which keeps it fresh and interesting (Pierce Brosnan indicated in this interview he would not have taken the role otherwise). Fortunately the almost dystopian view of London, where tube bombings are as common as traffic jams, is left off the screen as well. Nevertheless, given that this film takes a few stabs at a former world leader and that the director was arrested on a 30-year-old warrant, there is no shortage of controversy.

Elba

The former Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) has retreated to Martha’s Vineyard to work on his memoirs. A professional ghost writer (Ewan McGregor), is given the job because he’s got a knack for turning otherwise unprintable material into bestsellers. Upon arriving on the island, which Lang’s astute wife (Olivia Williams) compares to living with Napoloen in exile on Elba, but as events unfold the ghost writer (who remains unnamed) begins to wonder if it’s worth the trouble, despite the lucrative salary. Insofaras the title character isn’t usually accustomed to writing political memoirs, neither is Roman Polanski accustomed to directing political thrillers. In both cases, these characteristics work largely toward their favour. Without getting too hung up on a message or fleshing out a complex conspiracy Polanski concentrates on building suspense and telling an entertaining story. Obviously there are some implied political ramifications, but at the end you’re more caught up in what it means for the characters.

Palace Intrigue

Williams and McGregor do a good job at playing out the mini soap opera that unfolds in the island mansion-compound. Kim Cattrall hits the right tone in the role of Amelia Bly, Lang’s shapely assitant and the object of his affection (much to his wife’s disdain). Brosnan puts his own mark on the character, and it seems like a natural fit for him. Indeed the casting was well done; smaller parts for Jim Belushi and Tom Wilkinson (both in their element) add a lot of depth to this movie. The slow unraveling of the story and the way it is presented creates a lot of suspense and it is enjoyable even if you have read the book; Polanski deserves a lot of praise for a stunning finish and creating a political thriller that is entertaining and neither self-importnat nor preachy, but maybe that was easy because it’s fiction – well, sort of.

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