PG Cooper: The Ghost Writer Review

Posted: September 28, 2010 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

The Ghost Writer marks yet another film that I missed during it’s theatrical run despite really wanting to see it. There were two main reasons for this. Number one, I didn’t have the time. Number two, it’s a hard movie to sell to your friends. “Hey, you wanna see a slow paced, political thriller with virtually no action and a lot of dialogue that’s two hours long?” Doesn’t sound very appealing to most but to me, it sounded great. So now that I’ve finally seen this, was I satisfied?

The Ghost Writer is a political thriller directed by Roman Polanski. The plot follows an unnamed ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) tasked with the responsibility of completing the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). From the beginning, the writer’s assignment seems shady, seeing as he’s replacing the first ghost writer who was killed in an accident. Shortly after the writer arrives to the United States to begin writing, Lang is accused of war crimes and must remain in the U.S. or he’ll be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). As Lang tries to sort through his political mess, the writer digs deeper and deeper and begins to uncover a mystery that goes back decades.

The story here is quite good. Instead of a political thriller that “thrills” the audience by using a bunch of silly plot twists and over the top reveals, the story here slowly unravels over a long period of time. The story is also very interesting and you genuinely enjoy just watching the events unfold. The story manages to be exciting and riveting without going beyond the realms of plausibility.

The acting here is solid. Ewan McGregor is good as the unnamed writer, and captures that feel of an ordinary man caught in  an extraordinary situation. We also see everything through his eyes, and feel his emotions. Early on in the film, we feel his frustration as he tries to get information out of Lang. And as the film progresses, we feel fear for him as the stakes continue to rise. McGregor’s role is actually quite subtle. He seems rather unassuming and quite, but that’s his character.

Probably my favourite performance came from Brosnan as Adam Lang. He has a natural charisma that you can understand why he was such a successful politician. Beyond that, Brosnan just does a great job and was a lot of fun to watch. My only complaint would be I wanted more of him in the film. The other actors all do good in their roles. Olivia Williams plays Adam’s wife Ruth, and has some good, subtle tension with Ameilia Bly (Kim Cattrall), Adam’s personal assistant and mistress. Tom Wilkinson and Robert Pugh also both do good with two small, but important and memorable roles.

The suspicion and paranoia the film creates might be the film’s greatest asset. As the film slowly pulls you in, you slowly grow increasingly more suspicious of everyone and everything around you. This in part do to McGregor’s acting and just the overall writing of his character. You like him and you want to see him survive. But it’s also from the feel of isolation that Polanski creates. The house where Lang is staying, is dark and dreary. It’s also in the middle of nowhere, surrounded only by trees, sand, and the water. Even when the writer goes into town, we see little inhabitants, and the town seems rather lifeless. Whenever characters are outside, it’s always dark in some way or another. Bottom line, you rarely feel safe and you’re always uneasy.

Though I do praise the film for being realistic and letting things naturally unfold, I do think the movie was a bit slow. It takes a very long time to get into, and at times, can get a little boring. You are awarded for your patience however, as the last third is just excellent.

It’s embarrassing for me to say I paid to see crap like The Last Airbender, Salt, and Easy A in theaters, but not something like this. I stand by that this is a hard movie to sell, and I know there are people I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to because of the slow pace. But for me, The Ghost Writer was a riveting thriller with some solid acting and a great story.

8.5/10

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