The Ghost Writer
Now Showing at: The Esquire Theatre
Review by: Larry Thomas
In these days of high-tech, fast-paced, slam-bang action thrillers, it’s reassuring to spend a couple of hours in a darkened theatre watching a political conspiracy thriller that feels more like the 1960s. The Ghost Writer, the newest film from director Roman Polanski, is an enjoyable cat-and-mouse tale based on a novel by Robert Harris, and co-written by Harris and Polanski.
Ewan McGregor plays an author hired to ghost write the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Tony Blair. After accepting the assignment, he discovers he’s a replacement for the last ghost writer who died under mysterious circumstances. The more McGregor digs into the life and times of Adam Lang, the more he wonders what other nefarious skullduggery lays in wait around the corner. Pierce Brosnan is the Prime Minister in a performance that’s a complete one-eighty from his James Bond persona, and the best role he’s has since The Thomas Crown Affair.
Kim Catrall, from Sex and the City, is Brosnan’s assistant. Although her performance isn’t bad, while supposedly a Brit, her accent changes like the weather in the North Sea. It’s a minor distraction. Olivia Williams, most recently seen in the Oscar-nominated An Education, is the PM’s wife, in what I like to call the “Charlotte Rampling role.” She’s sexy, mysterious, and yet it’s a tough call if she’s to be trusted.
The rest of the supporting cast is peppered with fine actors in small parts: Timothy Hutton as a lawyer; the great Tom Wilkinson as a college professor; a gaunt, aging Eli Wallach as a man with information; and an almost-unrecognizable Jim Belushi as a book publisher. Polanski has a way with actors, so he picks talented people and uses them to great effect.
While the tale is set largely on an island off the coast of Massachusetts, a similar site in Germany doubles the locale. Great detail is taken in the set decoration so that there’s never a hint that it’s not America you’re seeing. The terrific score is by Alexandre Desplat, Oscar-nominated for his work on The Curious case of Benjamin Button.
Over the years, Roman Polanski has been responsible for some of the greatest thrillers ever put on film: Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, and The Tenant among others. He has a laid-back style that gives the script and actors a chance to explore what’s going on so that we in the seats can think about the events. In that respect, he can be reminiscent of Hitchcock, which is an appropriate comparison for The Ghost Writer. Some have claimed that Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island is a Hitchcockian thriller, but if you want to treat yourself to a film that truly deserves that mantle, then The Ghost Writer is for you. It’s one of Polanski’s best in years.
The PG-13 rated The Ghost Writer is now showing at only four locations around town: the Esquire Theatre, Rave West Chester, and Showcases in Florence and Milford. You may have to drive a little out of your way for this one, but it’s well worth the journey.