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The Ghost Writer
Directed by Roman Polanski (2010)
Howard Schumann (howard16)     Print Article 
Published 2010-03-12 22:58 (KST)   
Howard Schumann rates "The Ghost Writer" an A.  <Editor's Note>
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.

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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, protestors 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.
This article has not appeared in any other news medium but has been submitted to Cinescene (www.cinescene.com)
©2010 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Howard Schumann

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