Whatever you may think about Roman Polanski, it cannot be denied that he is one of the greatest directors in filmmaking history. His new political thriller, “The Ghost Writer,” stands as a testament to his genius. It’s a sophisticated and suspenseful masterpiece that rivals some of Alfred Hitchcock’s best work.
Ewan McGregor, in the title role, gets more than he bargained for when he reluctantly agrees to ghost write on behalf of the former prime minister of England, Adam Lang (the always brilliant Pierce Brosnan). It seems that his predecessor fell off the ferry and didn’t make the swim back. The original manuscript, which he left behind, is less than engaging, so the new Ghost (McGregor’s never called by name) needs to embellish. Through interviews and investigations, Ghost unearths mounds of closet skeletons and dastardly deeds.
Conspiracy theorists are going to eat up the not-so-vague parallels Polanski throws out in this intriguing mystery. Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice, George Bush and Halliburton all take it on the cheek one way or another. Irony plays big in this film, as well. Just as the new Ghost begins his work, Lang is accused of kidnapping and torture. He exiles himself in the United States ... hmm ... exile? Accusations?
Because he could not set foot on U.S. soil, Polanski shot the entire film in Germany, not Martha’s Vineyard, as depicted. He also edited “The Ghost Writer” while incarcerated in a Swiss prison ... amazing, given the end result. Gifted casting — which includes Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Hutton and Eli Wallach — is also responsible for making this film utterly engrossing.
When Polanski gets behind a camera, perceptions are challenged on numerous levels. Revisit “Repulsion”(1965), “Rosemary’s Baby”(1968), “Chinatown”(1974) and “Death or the Maiden” (1994) to remind yourself how this visionary artist changed filmmaking forever.
— Pam Nadon
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