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  • Roman Polanski's 'The Ghost Writer' bears the most in common with his recent 'The Ninth Gate'. The comparison starts this review as many others will inevitably find some comparison to be made with the director's work, especially since his personality looms so large.

    The plot has been described countless times and will be spared here. What instead fascinates is the depiction of Ewan McGregor as the nameless protagonist. He has no family, no real attachments so to speak, and no real drive. Like Johnny Depp's "book detective" in 'The Ninth Gate' his reason for existence seems to be to serve those higher in society. McGregor plays the party well, never completely convincing in one state or the other. Even when under duress his physical movements speak much more about his mental state than his mannerisms. This could be interpreted as Polanski's examination of apathy within larger society. What I mean by that is to say that it is through the Ghost's lack of interest that one can observe the world.

    Shot by Pawel Edelman, who has collaborated with Polanski in the past as well as with other heavyweight Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda, the images of 'The Ghost Writer' suggest a cool bleakness. Accompanied by a poetic score by the always reliable Alexandre Desplat the film suggests a constant looming menace, embodied by the rain of the New England island. The camera often remains static, sometimes zeroing in for reactions, but always showing a complete action through a singular movement or lack of movement. Often times the characters seem resigned to their fates. The roles each person plays in the story are very clearly defined. Former-PM Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), surrounded by his lackeys, anti-war protesters, etc. all seem just pieces of grander scale. Polanski's world view is so thoroughly and crisply represented through this visual style it is as if the individual events are not as important as the atmosphere in general.

    This is precisely why the film works, because of a director so in command of his craft. The film runs over 2 hours but every decision feels completely blocked and planned out. Every image carefully composed, every moment of information tightly plotted. 'The Ghost Writer' works terrifically by raising your blood level in this manner. Some will inevitably complain it makes the film seem merely serviceable when such expected plot twists occur. Yet I can think of few filmmakers so readily able to create such a vivid world and sustain it greatly. There are some pacing issues and the music can be overbearing. These are not unlike the problems facing Martin Scorsese's 'Shutter Island'. The talent of all involved makes the film exceed a workmanlike thriller even though the atmosphere on set was so mathematical.

    A very enjoyable, meticulous film that demands and rewards patience. Worth seeing.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Got to see this at a pre-release screening and wound up chewing my thumbnails down to the quick with the tension!

    Though I am a huge Roman Polanski fan (of his work, not necessarily the man) I haven't really been crazy about any of his films since "Death and the Maiden" ("The Pianist" was technically superb but left me cold). At last, my patience has been rewarded.

    "The Ghost Writer" is a stylish, edge-of-your-seat political thriller that, on the basis of suspense, twists, corruption, and an ensnared hero unable to grasp the enormity of what he's up against, can be looked on as a contemporary companion piece to Roman Polanski's "Chinatown." It's Polanski reveling in the art of skillful storytelling, and at age 76, it's clear he has not lost his touch.

    Collaborating with author Robert Harris from his novel "The Ghost" (film title expanded, no doubt, to avoid misleading Polanski fans who would assume a return to the supernatural) Polanski has fashioned a real nail-biter that, thanks to the solid performances and deft plotting, plays extremely well whether you like politics or know much about foreign policy.

    Ewan McGregor is a writer hired to ghost-write the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan) after the previous collaborator commits suicide (maybe). Almost immediately life begins to get, shall I say, complicated for McGregor as he is shuttled off to a spartan, fortress-like mansion on the American East Coast to work on the book and there encounters a catalog of the kind of slightly-off kilter characters that Polanski casts and directs so well. There's the unsettlingly mercurial Prime Minister, his caustic wife (Olivia Williams, who, simply put, steals the movie out from under everyone's noses), the icy assistant (Kim Cattrall, better than I thought she could ever be), and an entire corps of strange and secretive supporting players, all the better to keep you guessing just what is going on up to the absolutely socko conclusion.

    Can't say what readers of the novel will think of the film, but as someone who went into the film ignorant of the plot, I have to say it was a real thrill ride and held many didn't-see-that-coming surprises. So many of Polanski's trademark themes are showcased (black humor, a preoccupation with "foreignness," paranoia, the pervasiveness of evil), but best of all, it's a pleasure to see an intelligent thriller that is extremely well acted.

    The look of the film is as chilly as the underlying message, and the cast is populated with some startling casting choices very well used (I would have liked to have seen more of Eli Wallach, though).

    There is much to recommend in "The Ghost Writer," not the least of which being that Nicholas Cage (originally cast) dropped out before filming!
  • This is a connoisseur's movie. It needs to be consumed slowly and deliberately to truly enjoy everything that has gone into it. Watch it carefully, there is a lot going on under the surface.

    Yes, it's a thriller, and as such parts of it are fast paced, but what it does so well is to misdirect your attention for a while before snapping you back to focus.

    There are no wasted words, nor gratuitous scenes in this movie. Just like a Hitchcock movie, the scenes are all necessary, even if they are symbolic.

    The acting is first rate, and I say that because much of the tension in the movie comes from the way the characters act, not special effects, not plot points hammered in over and over again.

    It is a very dark movie, and the darkness is nicely set off by humor and sarcasm in a few spots.
  • Ewan McGregor gets rid of every ounce of glamour and allows his Polanskian character to emerge. I though, a few years ago, Polanski could have played him himself the way he played so beautifully in "The Tenant" Those two characters are not that far apart. Taking over an apartment or a job from someone who leaves the scene under very mysterious circumstances is practically the same thing. McGregor, however, is superb. In "The Ghost Writer" events play close to the knuckle. Who is Pierce Brosnan? Tony Blair? and Olivia Williams? Classic film-making at its best. Compelling and visually stunning. The score by Alexander Desplat reminded me of Bernard Herrman and the atmosphere is so thick that the film's 2 hours plus fly by at an amazing speed. Polanski at 77 doesn't show any signs of jadedness. He is in total control. Hurrah for that!
  • The key word here is suspense, the perfect blend of a director at the peak of his powers, a script that beautifully works with a source without diluting its essence or compromising its subject matter, and with a timing so perfect that no false note is hit, enrapturing its audience, never letting go, pushing its limits as the audience awaits its incredible resolution.

    McGregor plays a hired writer who comes in to assist Lang (Brossnan) in the publication of his memoirs. Timing couldn't get worse as an unexpected complication ensues and many people's lives and reputations are suddenly in danger. As the film reaches its conclusion, with tensions and levels of paranoia reaching unheard limits, it's got our attention, and it has earned every bit of it.

    The quality of the writing is impressive, with no false moves, no red herrings, no unnecessary distractions, no manipulations to sway you one way or another. What we have is a mix of intrigue, action, Shakespearean drama, and performers who might never be this good again. Polanski channels Hitchcock at his best, using Desplat's driving score (himself channeling Herrman), and just when it all could have been a tribute, it soars above its inspiration.

    Among so many impressive elements, one has to mention the note perfect and outstanding Olivia Williams, an actress that has moved on from being physically alluring to developing acting talents which could rank her with Streep and Close because of her impeccable and powerful turn. Here is a woman who hardly resorts to gimmicks, but takes the most normal of situations and weaves a wave of intrigue that would leave you breathless.

    "The Ghost Writer" is a mystery, a thriller, a tribute to the masters who inspired the genre and might even surpass all those sources of inspiration. The film mixes politics with an old fashion thrills and makes us wonder why Hollywood hasn't made movies like this more often. It's early in the year, but it's going to be hard to find anything that can even come close to this movie, a film that is as perfect as anything any director has ever put together, Hitchcock included.
  • I went in to see this film without any prior knowledge of what it was about. I kinda like that when I see a movie... I only knew that Ewan McGregor was in it and that was good enough a reason for me. The first two things that I noticed in this film was the cinematography and the score. I thought that the cinematography was beautiful and the settings were stunning. There was a reason why everything had a certain look about it. The opening music at the beginning was also another hint that something is quite off through the whole movie. This isn't going to be a run-of-the mill mystery story; this is so much more.

    Without giving away anything, there is so much to see and speculate on when you are introduced to the characters. I didn't realize until the very end of the film that you are never hinted as to ANYTHING about The Ghost. More than once I was going over in my head to try and remember what his character's name was, but to no avail. Ruth's character is something else completely compelling and curious. Truly brilliant characters in this story.

    I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who is looking to go see a truly amazing and cerebral film. It doesn't mess with your head in the way Shutter Island did, but it makes you think and it really leads you down every single road of the map, all at the same time.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ***SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!*** A good thriller--better than the flashy, over-emphatic Shutter Island--but not more than that. Still, good is good and I'm not knocking it. I enjoyed the movie. Brosnan was really impressive. It was shrewd of Polanski to cast him (he needed a star to give the small role heft) and it took balls for Brosnan to take the role. Also, the directing was usually first rate and had some really creepy effects. BUT a few big problems, which don't make THE GHOST WRITER a bad movie, prevent it from being better than good. I won't write further about the good things in it (others have done so) but here's why I was disappointed and why I give it no higher than 7 out of 10. (REMEMBER SPOILER ALERT! READ NO FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT!) When the Ghost is given the room of his dead predecessor whose belongings have not been cleared out, it's a tip-off that's too obvious. First, the crowd that runs this house would have gone through it with a fine tooth comb and got rid of everything a.s.a.p. Second, we know that once the Ghost moves in he's going to find something incriminating. Then there's the ending. Why does the Ghost tell the wife what he's found (which I assume is what's in the note he passes to her)? Given her company's record of murder and its attempted murder of him, it's like a suicide note. And the staging of the final scene is so unoriginal it's not worthy of Polanski. After the Ghost walks out of the frame and the camera stays put on the street, we know--if we've seen Hitchcock's FAMILY PLOT and other flicks that use the same device--that the street is waiting for a killer car to drive down it for you-know-what.
  • Polanski is a master of subtlety, grace, and wit. His eye creates breathtaking and beautiful shots. His ear adds a malevolent and demented humor to the score of a film. There is most always something unspeakable, indescribable beneath the surface of a Polanski film. Something unnerving about the tone but never overbearing, or pounding the audience over the head with it. This is certainly true of The Ghost Writer. What I found surprising, not being familiar with the novel on which it is based, was the political statement being made. Humorously portraying certain key figures in the political environment of the last decade. In any other hands, this could never have been done so believably and deftly. All the key performances are on target. And how could they not be. For Polanski knows how to work with actors and guide them in creating such memorable characters. Ewan McGregor certainly fits his role seamlessly as does Olivia Williams. So many could learn from Polanski how a thriller needs to be constructed in order to hold an audience to the very end. The word entertainment means to 'hold in between' which is what The Ghost Writer does from beginning to its haunting and inevitable conclusion.
  • Polanski does some of his best work in a long time in this nearly-flawless and beautiful-looking film. Engaging story, interesting characters, incredible mood and sense of place (amazingly, locations in Germany substituted brilliantly for Martha's Vineyard -- having spent some time on the Vineyard, I was completely convinced that's what I was seeing, forgetting during the film that Polanski wouldn't have set foot on U.S. soil), more implied violence than any real screen violence (for those who like suspense but stay away from thrillers because of worry about violence, don't worry) -- it's all about suspense and intrigue. Every shot is gorgeous. Fun references to CHINATOWN, and especially Billy Wilder's SUNSET BOULEVARD. Lovely performances by Olivia Williams, who is sexy and vulnerable, Pierce Brosnan, the absolutely always brilliant Tom Wilkinson and an extraordinary cameo by Actors Studio legend Eli Wallach (he still has the chops!). The ending caps a perfect film perfectly, and the MacGuffin is great fun. If you like vintage Hitchcock, and especially if you like the best work of Polanski, don't miss it. I'm ready to see it again and watch how it's put together.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I can not help but wonder if many viewers are biased by the fact that this is a Roman Polanski film. In my opinion, it was sophomoric in its execution. Really quite terrible... and I am not generally a harsh critic of movies. The story line had so much potential, but the execution failed. Here are my criticisms:

    (1) Ewan McGregor's character is completely unbelievable. It is unconvincing that an ordinary guy/ghost writer would take up the task of solving a high-profile, super-secret murder within the course of 3 days that he has been working with the Prime Minister. And not only is that premise hard to believe, the lines he delivers and actions he takes are so ridiculous. He naively trusts everyone (the PM's wife, the Paul Emmett professor, the PM's enemy Rycart) despite the fact that his predecessor was suspiciously murdered... carelessly sharing the secret photos (badly photo-shopped, btw) and incriminating evidence, even though he is being chased by unknown "bad guys". The writing and acting makes his character completely unbelievable.

    (2) There are two primary sub-plots (the PM's war crimes charges and the CIA connection), but the stories are not effectively woven together or fleshed out... and neither are made very intriguing or compelling. I left the film thinking, "OK, so I understand the CIA connection now... but how is that actually intriguing? And does it have anything do to with the war crimes plot line? Was the war crimes thing just completely irrelevant?"

    (3) Some of the writing is so dumb and careless. For example: The Ghost Writer discovers the supposedly top-secret CIA connection to Paul Emmett simply by Googling it.... unreal! The bedroom scene with the Ghost Writer and PM's wife, and their relationship after 2 days of being together... unbelievable! Also, the Ghost Writer solves the mystery within the text of the book by simply connecting the first word used in each of the first few chapters... so unimaginative! And then he passes a note to the PM's wife at the public book launch with the secret discovery (with Paul Emmett at her side, who has claimed all along not to know the PM)... seriously?! And at the end when Ghost Writer gets hit by the car, since it seems that the CIA had a car waiting exactly for that purpose (despite the fact it was a complete shock that he figures out the secret)... so stupid!

    I really wanted to like this film and it started out good, but quickly went downhill... and seemed to pick up bad momentum all the way to until the end. I wish I knew how so many positive reviews have been written. I am baffled.
  • No doubt Roman Polansky knows how to build a gripping movie, with craft and wit, in this case a political thriller, where references to Blair and Bush are no so much explicit, but subtle enough to be perceived somehow. Reviews underlined a style resembling Hitchcock: indeed, the story proceeds, creating suspense, thrill, without appealing to excessive action or shock, although never reaching Hitchcock's subtlety of insight and mystery, both in characters and situations. Mostly, the plot proves some loose ends as the craftily prepared intrigue seems to come to a hasty ending, leading to a finale which does not appear up to the great potential and high expectations of its previous development.

    Convincing and well-focused performances by the whole cast, especially by Ewan McGregor who keeps a high-level performance, never abusing his intriguing role, but thoroughly contained, Pierce Brosnan proves good in his part, although his past stereotyped roles make it difficult to see him credible as a former prime minister, Olivia Williams as his wife Ruth delivers a smart and talented performance. Quite interesting are some minor characters, such as the members of the service, or the old man living on the island, who enhance, despite or probably thanks to their more silent presence, the mysterious atmosphere of the story.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Instead of using fast cuts and other modern cinematic gimmicks, Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer relies on an involving story that deeply immerses us in the experience, a tribute to his immense skill as a director. Based on the novel Ghost written by Robert Harris, the film is about an unnamed author (Ewan McGregor) who is hired to complete the memoirs of former British Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) after the previous ghost writer was found dead, his body washed up on a beach in New England.

    Although it is a suspense thriller, The Ghost Writer also makes a sharp political statement, creating a main character that very much resembles former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (Harris, himself was a strong supporter of Blair until he broke with him over Britain's participation in the war in Iraq and Blair's subordination to U.S. foreign policy interests). Because Polanski was banned from the U.S. because of an event that occurred 32 years ago, the film was shot in Germany and its depiction of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts is recreated on the island of Sylt in the North Sea.

    Opening as a ferry disembarks suspiciously leaving one car behind, the film establishes a mood of unease and danger from the outset, aided by an atmospheric score by Alexandre Desplat. People talk about the drowning of the previous ghost writer as being either an accident or a suicide yet, like many CIA-assisted suicides, it is suspicious right off the bat (or off the boat) and the new author soon finds himself buried in intrigue when he visits Lang in his security-entrenched compound on the seacoast.

    McGregor is a blank slate, an ambitious young man presumably just out to take in a huge paycheck but after reading Lang's autobiography and finding it to be a "cure for insomnia," he is determined to have the former Prime Minister share his life and work in a more authentic manner. The writer is invited to stay in the compound where Lang resides with his very articulate and somewhat bitter wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) who suspects his assistant Amelia (Kim Cattrall) to be his mistress. McGregor's autobiographical work is interrupted when he hears in the news that Lang has been accused of war crimes by a former minister and is being investigated by the World Court.

    To appear to be engaging in business as usual, Lang travels to Washington in a private jet owned by a company with a name similar to Halliburton, where he is defended against the accusations by a State Secretary who looks very much like Condoleezza Rice. At home, however, protesters show up on the island together with hordes of press and Ruth has to turn to the author for some physical and mental solace as the plot swoops and dives into unpredictable twists and turns that keeps us off balance until the powerful conclusion.

    Heading an outstanding cast, Brosnan delivers a strong performance that strikes the right balance between fear and arrogance and McGregor is also pitch perfect. Winner of a Silver Bear in Berlin for Best Director, The Ghost Writer shows Polanski at the top of his form and in total control of the medium. Even though he had to complete the final editing of his film in a Swiss jail and under house arrest in Switzerland, the fact that it still bears the stamp of his genius is a tribute not only to his art but also to his character.
  • From Knife in the Water and Rosemary's Baby to Chinatown, Roman Polanski has shown a skill at the slowly distributed thriller, and especially with a dash of hard-core politics as in Chinatown's Los Angeles water intrigues. Now in The Ghost Writer, the acclaimed director recaptures that Hitchcock sense of inevitable evil slowly stalking the rich and famous while the little guy protagonist witnesses the underbelly of power.

    Ex-Prime Minister Andrew Lang (Pierce Brosnan) hires a ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) to finish an autobiography by the previous ghost writer, who mysteriously drowned. As unnamed ghost begins his work in a Martha's Vineyard hideaway of Lang, mayhem breaks out, for Lang is accused of sanctioning water boarding in the Iraq theater.

    While it is apparent Lang's personal life is deteriorating as well, the ghost pursues with the tenacity of Jake Gittes the mystery of how his predecessor died, gaining a few bruised bones but not a broken nose for being nosy.

    While the film has some clichéd situations, almost as if Polanski is trying to evoke '70's thrillers in all their cheesiness, he has recruited an excellent cast. In addition to McGregor and Brosnan at their best, Tom Wilkinson as a suspicious Ivy League academic and a cameo by Eli Wallach as an old Vineyard denizen are so good that I wanted more of them. Polanski has always directed his actors well, but of course he is smart enough to hire them in the first place.

    The stark; outdoor settings; the almost antiseptic interiors; the slowly suspenseful music; the car chases; the shower; and the suspicious ladies,especially the blond), are a few of the Hitchcock touches gracing the Ghost Writer. That Lang is unable to reside in only few countries of the world where he can't be extradited for crimes against humanity is a light reference to Polanski's own exile. For that allusion, I applaud him and wonder how he can keep a sense of humor amidst his possible imprisonment on charges of statutory rape.

    However, he is after all a certifiable auteur whose legacy will outlive any prison time.
  • I have been waiting to see this movie since I saw the trailer and not just because it starred Pierce Bronsnan. This film looked and sounded very interesting and I have to say that it was. It might be slow for some people who are use to modern movies where things move at a fast pace (mostly to go nowhere). It keeps your interest and has a nice twist at the end. The acting was superb, even the minor roles, such as Timothy Hutton (who I miss on the big screen) did a great job with a really small role. Sure it wasn't a great thriller but it has a lot of good elements that make it suspenseful. Also this movie has a lot of humor and doesn't take itself so seriously which is great too. It's a really good balance and I would see it again.
  • The Ghost is the story of a ghost writer who wins an assignment to tidy up the memoirs of a recently ex British Prime Minister to turn them into a best seller. It's set in the United States, and revolves around unproven accusations of allowing suspected terrorists to be extradited and tortured. The previous ghost writer has been found dead.

    I found this a tense thriller with the added attraction of that pointed economy of execution for which Europeanised Hollywood (of which Polanski must be one of the leading exponents) is famed. As was often the case with Hitchcock, the story, camera framing, and a sense of mounting anticipation, produce more suspense than any amount of car chases, expensive stunts, intrusive music or grandstanding of stars.

    Polanski's choice of stars is interesting, particularly as the two lead parts Pierce Brosnan (as former Prime Minister, Adam Lang) and Ewan McGregor (as the ghost) are known more for their 'star-appeal' performances than any detailed character acting. Yet they are perfectly cast, both for their on screen personas and for the space given them to develop. When Brosnan comes alive in sudden fits of rage (almost recalling Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon) we become more aware of his considerable strength as an actor, allowing the character – deliberately something of a stereotype – to shine through. The ploy is somewhat less successful though with Kim Cattrall, who seems forever in her Sex and the City persona. or Tom Wilkinson, who sadly seems to have just been wheeled in just to read lines from a supporting role. A less recognisable face in the formidable array of stars is Olivia Williams (Miss Stubbs in An Education, and also making a return in the new series of Dollhouse). So when Williams, as Lang's wife Ruth, shows unexpected fire and passion we are taken by surprise – without any of the voyeuristic appeal of watching Ewan McGregor bare his bottom – as he, or his double, does quite readily.

    The Ghost can be watched on two levels. Firstly it can be enjoyed as a straightforward thriller of a traditional sort. Aimed at modern audiences, it has plenty of sudden shocks but less twists and turns than, say, Chinatown. Even the ending has been simplified from the original script, which would have given a further meaning to the title and the whole film: but at the risk of being perhaps a little too clever.

    But for those who want to draw unsettling comparisons, there is a fairly heavy-handed likeness to accusations about Tony Blair's complicity in what have been termed war crimes. And as Adam Lang, ensconced on an island off the east coast of America, far from the reach of the International Court of Justice (to which America does not subscribe), is pulled deeper into the plot of conspiracy theorists, another reading is easy to find: Polanski's own isolation for alleged crimes committed many years ago. For those that want to follow such parallels, there is a US Secretary of State that looks worrying like Condoleezza Rice. And when Lang refuses an invitation to go to London for fear of arrest, it might possibly recall Polanski's comment, "The last time I went to a festival to get a prize I ended up in jail." The Ghost is a beautifully 'hand-crafted' film, almost belonging to the age of noir, when characters were shadows and revelations exposed with dramatic force rather than loud bangs. Perhaps not as flashy as masterpieces such as Chinatown or Rosemary's Baby, The Ghost is still a welcome addition of quality and sleek design when the market for such dramas is swamped with bad stories and cluttered execution.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I admire Polanski's movies for their ability to captivate the audience and his suspenseful yet reality based movies. In the GhostWriter the mysterious atmosphere is captured but the characters are uninteresting and unsympathetic and the story is just plain rubbish. The silly twist of making Olivia such a mastermind just seems like a twist for the sake of a twist. And the abrupt death at the end is just too much. There is a weakly explained ending. Brosnan seems rather ill at ease. Olivia Williams's character is too scizo to be realistic. Ewan isn't interesting at all. You just don't care what at happens to him. Kim was fascinating to watch but a bit under utilised. Why did Polanski choose this lame and silly story to make a movie. It was a waste of a good director.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The actors did a fine job of carrying their roles. The director made it all look, feel and fit as well as possible.

    However, the whole plot and details simply don't deliver for the level of film this one aspires to be.

    The "secret" really isn't worth killing over, as is impliedly the case. And, if the CIA or a lifelong spy with such professional and deadly connections are involved, why do they do such completely implausible things? Like leave the dead writer's damning evidence in a room after his death for the next writer to find? Why hire someone that isn't an inside man, if it so important to keep secrets? Why can't such a powerful group have more than the two agents who get tricked to stay on the ferry (and hence take care of the new writer who is a problem? Why not print off a new copy of the manuscript so that a simple code isn't left in the old formatting to be found? After the ex-PM is killed, why doesn't the spy organization use the three months to clean up the loose ends, or at least steal back the critical original copy of the manuscript? A plot motive that is underwhelming and implausible that is carried along by plot developments that are illogical and out of character with the degree of evilness and sophistication that the movie villain is supposed to possess.

    Adds up to an adult crime thriller/drama that is neither smart nor clever and that 12 year olds would not be inclined to boast about deducing early in the film.

    But, how any reasonably intelligent adult could find such plot holes and contrivances satisfying or entertaining to any appreciable degree is the biggest question this film leaves unanswered.
  • I resent the stars this has on IMDb and the time I wasted watching it. I really should have switched off at the opening scenes in the publisher's office, which were unlike anything I've ever seen in 20 years in publishing. Hilariously off, but I took that just to be Hollywood liberty, because the real thing would be very dull on screen. It was in fact an early warning I should have heeded. The setting is lovely, though quite why an English Prime Minister should have chosen anywhere quite so apocalyptically rainy is beyond me - mostly we try to escape the weather when leave these shores. The acting is competent, and Kim Cattrall does NOT murder an English accent, contrary to other reviews, because for heaven's sake she spent her teens here and her parents are English. Though her voice sounded odd, up a register from her Sex and the City character, so maybe that throws what people hear. The actors deserve some sympathy for working with such dire material and making it at least watchable. The characterisations are weak, their shared histories coarsely stabbed at with obvious script lines, everything very tired. The mixed suspiciousness and naivety of MacGregor's character is hugely annoying, his actions at times incomprehensibly like a death wish. (No, they weren't an interesting twist on his character, just a crude way of moving the story along.) The single typed manuscript of the memoir - in 2010? Sure, I bet Robert Harris never keeps a backup memory stick of his months of work. Give me strength. But we stuck with it - because it is rather beautifully filmed, and it was Polanski, and you know, it had to be better than it seemed - right to the end. The ending actually drew a "WHAT?!" out of all of us, because we couldn't believe an ending so bad could make it through script meetings, filming, editing, and test screenings. If you want to spoil it for yourself, pause the film close to the end and have a think about what the most clichéd, obvious, and unsatisfying way to finish it would be. Even after most of it had passed, it was STILL surprising how schlocky the very final frames were. I laughed. My son declared it the worst ending he'd ever seen, and that included all the disaster movies he had to watch for film studies last year, EVEN 2012. And since that is his benchmark for everything rubbish in films, it is a deep well indeed that this story fell down. The star is entirely for the beach, the sky, and the man sweeping the leaves on the deck, a Sisyphean task if ever I saw one.
  • marccolten-126 April 2012
    Warning: Spoilers
    The amount of stupidity in this film ruins it completely. It can't even be bothered to maintain its own internal logic.

    1. The first ghost disappears off a ferry then washes up on a beach. But the second ghost is told that the body couldn't have wound up there and that there were flashlights on the beach that night. So, did they toss him off a ferry to drown, or drown him and then put him on the beach? Why do the killers care where it washes up?

    2. The second ghost may have been naive and stupid to go to the CIA handler, but the first one already knew (it was in the manuscript) so why go there? It was more like suicide than murder.

    3. So the wife was a CIA agent. Unless the former PM was brainwashed like in the Manchurian Candidate, what did that do for anyone?

    4. The sheer stupidity of the second ghost to let them know he knows, before telling the guy who could do something about it. Also, when you are running from the bad guys, walk on the sidewalk.

    5. And the secret message? Reminded me of an episode of the Simpsons where they go to a thriller and Homer yells out "Now I remember. The code is the nursery rhyme he sang to his daughter!"

    6. It's not proof. The photos aren't proof. Nothing is proof.

    7. In all the time since the first ghost's murder, killed because he "knew too much", no one searched the room for evidence? And what did all the evidence prove? Nothing.

    Stupid, stupid movie.
  • A good thriller, but a forgettable affair...

    It is a rarity nowadays to see a complete film that uses its characters to create suspense and thrilling moments, rather than relying on technological advancement. Polanski is an old school type of director and like The Pianist; the journey is all about our lead character. Ewan McGregor is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood and it is him not Pierce Brosnan that drives the Ghost Writer, like a thriller. The good news is that this film captures your attention from start to finish. There is no doubting of the fact that the film constantly alludes to a certain Prime Minister known as Tony Blair and even to a smaller extent of the Bush Administration. War on Terror is probably political, but departing from those sided political views, The Ghost Writer is an efficient and credible thriller that manages to provide enough suspense and interesting moments to engage the audience for the entire duration.

    Ewan McGregor plays a ghost writer for the former prime minister of England (played with charisma by Pierce Brosnan). McGregor is an excellent character actor; you can tell that he is immersed into the role so deeply that you feel for him. It is the kind of film where you follow the character, whatever he is doing, you think along with him. While the film is by no means the class of The Pianist, the film is still thrilling enough to engage. In a way, Pierce Brosnan adds screen presence and has the looks of a political leader, but it seems as though that his apparent lack of range actually made the Ghost Writer, a lesser film. A scene stealing cameo from Tom Wilkinson is most definitely criminally underused. Perhaps, a younger Wilkinson would make a brilliant former Prime Minister. In many ways, I was actually disappointed with Olivia Williams's portrayal as former First Lady as she fails to convince.

    All in all, The Ghost Writer is a good thriller, but there are plenty flaws along the way. The problem with the film is not so much that it really didn't say much, but rather it is the type of film that catches your attention during the duration, but loses from your memory as the credit starts to roll. Not a bad effort by the acclaimed Polanski, but really it could have been much better...(Neo 2010)

    I rate it 6.5/10

    • www.thehkneo.com
  • "Now that's what I call a thriller," I said to myself as I came out of The Ghost Writer. Having just seen the brilliant Alice Creed only last week, I wasn't expecting to see such a masterfully crafted thriller for a Good while yet. I watched Roman Polanski's newest film completely engaged and came out having seen one of the best films of 2010 so far without any doubt.

    As the name suggests, the film is all about a ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) who is given the opportunity by his agent to write the completed memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). The writer flies out to Lang's oceanfront house on a remote island just off the East of the USA. He meets Lang, his wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) and also his aide Amelia (Kim Cattrall). You get the impression early on that Lang might be a bit of a bastard, he's having an affair with Amelia and is soon accused of sanctioning the kidnapping and torture of suspects. The World Court prepares an indictment. It would be unwise for Lang to return to Britain, and he flees to Washington. The ghost writer is left alone in the house and it all kicks off from there.

    As you may have guessed, the story (based on a best-selling novel by Robert Harris) has more than few sly hints and winks towards Tony Blair. Adam Lang may as well have a Tony Blair nametag on the comparisons are so clear. Ewan McGregor's search for information is creepy, chilling and obviously rather thrilling as well. There are plenty of twists and exciting ideas that I won't spoil for you here.

    The story is excellent as you'd expect considering it's based on a best-selling book and the author helped write the screenplay. Roman Ploanski's direction is also utterly brilliant. The film is perfectly edited and is subtle and thrilling at the same time. This film is the work of a man who knows how to direct a thriller; smooth, calm and ever so confident. It builds suspense instead of depending on shock and action.

    It's helped a lot by the believable and excellent performances of the cast. My God I've been waiting a while for Ewan McGregor to be in anything decent (Star Wars and Angels and Demons, eurgh) but he delivers a brilliant performance here. Pierce Brosnan is to be commended as well for a smart and engaging performance, whilst his on-screen wife Olivia Williams projects the air of a wife who is committed to her husband in more than expected ways thanks to her great performance. Kim Cattrall is not as significantly involved and is clearly more suited to chick flicks but still manages a decent performance herself.

    The Ghost Writer is simply a superbly well made film. It's directed by a guy who clearly knows what he's doing to the extent that he could make something equally as compelling in his sleep. It looks great and moves at a perfect rhythm so to keep the audience perfectly engaged and compelled to keep watching. The performances are superb too and the story is believable and enjoyable. As I said at the start, this is what I call a thriller.

    5/5
  • Saw this film last night and haven't stopped thinking about it since. Loaded with the kind of visual symbolism that seems to be mostly missing from todays cinema, every shot feels intentional and expertly executed. From the outset, you get the feeling that you are in the hands of a master film-maker, letting you relax into this all encompassing experience. No need for 3D, CGI effects or complicated camera moves. This film uses good old fashioned suspense to draw you in, making for an altogether more immersive experience.

    My girlfriend and I argued about this film for an hour afterwards which I consider a good thing! It doesn't hand over all the answers on a plate, it forces you to think and contemplate the information presented to you. I know that many people go to the cinema nowadays for pure escapism and will view a movie like this as too much effort. I promise you, it's not an effort, it's a joy to behold! I urge you all to please give it a try, resist the latest generic Hollywood offering of explosions and gimmick, and experience the true power of cinema.

    I love Hollywood! I love blockbusters! But more films like this need to be made - vote with your feet!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I have to admit, I wasn't terribly impressed with the first several minutes of The Ghost Writer. Not because it was bad, far from it, it was an engaging beginning and a good (not great) premise. But because I wasn't sure where the spark was connecting it to the director, Roman Polanski. Any director could make this kind of premise, right? A ghost writer, usually focusing on subjects outside of politics, is given a well-paying but very rushed assignment to profile a former Prime Minister of Britain. He finds there is a manuscript written already, but that it needs more work, and that the Prime Minister needs to give him some more input on his life - or what he's not willing to say outright, what's under the surface.

    There's room for an audience's interest here, but it's really once the writer goes to Martha's Vineyard in Massachussetts, where the Prime Minister will be staying shortly while weathering a scandal involving him and alleged torture of terrorist suspects, that it really gets interesting. More than that, it starts looking like a Polanski movie. A very good and surprisingly handsomely made one (maybe not too surprising, as it's Polanski's metee to do solid, for-adults-thinking thrillers). What I mean is I started to get shivers of recognition - scenes by a beach, limited characters, and a mounting mystery around a conspiracy that gets bigger and more complex. It's like Chinatown set on the island of Cul-de-sac, doused with the fire of current events (there's even one shot that is obvious but funny, where Brosnan's PM Adam Lang stands next to a black woman at a press conference that is a knock-off of Condaleeza Rice).

    While the story in The Ghost Writer, which keeps getting better and more absorbing as it goes along, as the writer (never named specifically but played by Ewan McGregor) keeps digging somewhat unintentionally through Adam's past and connections with the CIA in the 70's and shady figures, not to mention the late-memoir writer who was found washed up on the nearby beach, is intriguing, it's Polanski's direction that kept me glued. It's not just the story but how it's told, and I was reminded again of how the director, now in his 70's, hasn't lost the nerve to just tell the damn thing and put in a few twists that would keep us guessing but not enough to find it too preposterous. The shots and compositions also, again, recalled former films of his, but never at the expense of self-parody. Always when there's a tight close-up of a person's face (look at how close Brosnan and Wilkinson get when talking to McGregor in their scenes), it's done to add tension to a scene, and keep things moving along. It's discreetly artistic, if that makes sense.

    Then again, sometimes Polanski just relishes in keeping his willing and attentive audience on their toes. The performances help- everyone here is terrific, including McGregor, better he's been in years, and Olivia Williams really giving it her all as a frustrated wife of the Prime Minister in her few scenes (she really will keep you guessing, and her seemingly predictable tryst with the writer has more going on than meets the eye). But there's also some sly humor going on, like in a Hitchcock film where side character seem to know more, or perhaps nothing at all, compared to the main character (watch those maids and groundskeepers looking at the Writer with strong glances or caught up in the breeze outside). I also loved the settings and locations, like the hard concrete walls of the quasi-bunker that Lang's people are set up in, giving an added level to the proceedings.

    And, lastly, the reveal of what's actually hidden in the memoir. I couldn't reveal it here, for one thing as a major spoiler but just because the fun of the scene is not in what is passed along in a note but how it's passed along, how Polanski relishes in shooting the note being passed hand-to-hand among suits at a party. It's a brilliant sequence leading up to a bittersweet ending... make that more bitter. Would you expect anything less from Polanski?
  • I am astounded at the number of positive reviews this is receiving. I see a lot of films and not infrequently I see films that I generally do not like for one reason or another but really enjoy or respect due to certain aspects or qualities they contain. Not so here. This was just boring, boring, boring with almost no tension or drama and the "plot" was simply laughable.

    The climax was would have been sleep inducing had you not been wondering why anyone would really care about the secret that was revealed. The final scene was like something out of a high school project that the kids waited until the night before to script and film. A more minor gripe is the multiple, annoying commercials for BMW.

    I am appalled this is being compared to Hitchcock's work. Some of the shots were impressive, the atmospherics were good and the performances good to average but I simply did not care because there was no story or intrigue to hold it all together.

    I cannot recommend this as even a video rental unless you are perhaps doing a study of one of the principals work.
  • Thrillers are supposed to be... well, thrilling. Not always they have the best logic, and many times they end up sacrificing it in order to keep the film thrilling. Many have had relative success with it, but only one is considered the master of the genre: Alfred Hitchcock.

    Yet, Roman Polanski is one of the closest to reaching Hitchcock.

    On the other hand, the political/investigative thriller has always been a complete bore. I had never seen one create true tension, and the pacing is pretty much always terrible. 'All The President's Men', if not the first at least the most influential of them, is an extremely boring movie that somehow got so successful that inspired other stinkers to follow its formula (ie.: 'Zodiac').

    So I was surprised to see 'The Ghost Writer' be one of those, even if its director should be enough indication. Polanski manages to make a controlled thriller that never fails to uphold its logic. There is a genuine suspense, the twists are good, and the characters are very well made and develop nicely through the story.

    The cast works very well. Pierce Brosnan plays a somewhat air-headed former prime minister better than he did James Bond (truthfully, that is not saying much), but Ewan McGregor and Olivia Williams (a very underrated actress) are the real stars in here. Also worth noticing is the small role by a very good Eli Wallach.

    I hope this brings a change to this boring genre. 'The Ghost Writer' was a very good watch, but that is something one can expect from Polanski.
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