“The Ghost Writer” is the latest film by Polish-French genius director Roman Polanski. It is a sleek, stylish, and smart political thriller that has channeled Hitchcock in ways that no one has done, since…well-Hitchcock himself. Like the master, Polanski sets his tone through ominous music, and bases this on a central character-an innocent who struggles to find truth, and gain control of a living nightmare.
The film begins with Ewan McGregor as “The Ghost” (a name is never revealed) who has just landed a jackpot payday when he is tagged to finish the memoirs of the former Prime Minister of Britain, Adam Lang (played by a witty Pierce Brosnan). After being shipped over the pond for the following month, he quickly finds himself isolated on a small island with Lang, the angry wife (spicy Olivia Williams), and the head of Lang’s personal affairs and also his mistress Amelia (Kim Cattrall-who is refreshingly not Samantha Jones in this). Soon after it is revelaved that Lang is now accused of illegal rendition of British prisoners, by the CIA. No one is on this man’s side- why should they be? But The Ghost is still here to pen his memoirs, as his only allie. As more mystery is built up as the film runs, The Ghost wonders “what have I gotten myself into here”? and begins to fit together pieces of a puzzle left behind by the previous writer, Mike, who washed up dead on the beach shoreline two weeks earlier. This leads The Ghost on a personal hunt and mission, intentionally leading him in the wrong direction.
What is so great about this film is the tedious work and planned out thoughts of Polanski himself. Not to mention a stealth cast who sets the bar to the highest. In addition to an incredible McGregor, a sharp Brosnan, and two female supporters who take us by storm (Williams and Cattrall) , he surprises us with many notable cameos throughout the film. Including 94 year old veteren actor Eli Wallach, Timothy Hutton, James Belushi, Polanski’s daughter Morgane as a hotel clerk, and a brilliant Tom Wilkinson- as a man with ‘some sort of ties’ to Lang and this whole ‘secret’- but we the viewers, do not know what.
It should also be noted that Polanski in fact edited the film in prison, and in reflection of that-the film shows it. It is dark, grey, and holds intruige, and sadness. The climax is a Hitchcock-ian twist, that is excellent, well executed, and shocking. The jabs at the US political system, scandals like Haliburton and even Tony Blair are also reflected in the director’s vision-which mark him as nothing short of genius. Last month he was awarded the Best Director Silver Bear (Silberner Bär) at the Berlinale Film Festival, in Berlin as well.
I might also add that Clint Eastwood cast the veteran Eli Wallach as a cameo in his 2003 comeback director film ‘Mystic River’. A sort of a good luck charm Wallach seems to carry, he is also featured here. Let’s hope it brings a new light to this director, and hopefully a fresh start and new revival of a magical career for Roman Polanski.
The Ghost Writer is now playing in NY and LA, and will expand to more theaters this Friday.