Film Reviews

GHOST WRITER

By • Mar 10th, 2010 •

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Clever, taut, drenched in Hitchcockian dread, and very well done.

Former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) is “vacationing” in a concentration-camp gray estate on Martha’s Vineyard in the dead of winter. Perhaps it reminds Lang of windy, raw Scotland.

Lang is pampered by his astute counsel, his wife Ruth (Olivia Williams), a personal assistant/mistress Amelia (Kim Cattrall), MI6 secret agents, and various secretaries. Lang has chosen Purgatory-by-the-ocean to write his memoirs. Problems arise when Lang’s ghostwriter drowns in the ocean and his publisher wants another writer to doll up his autobiography.

With a 4-week, $250,000 assignment waved in his reluctant face, the nameless “Ghost” (Ewan MacGregor) agrees to do the job.

The gloomy fortress aside, the Ghost is puzzled by the apparent Top Secret shenanigans regarding Lang’s autobiographical draft. What does it hold? The map to the Ark of the Covenant? The name of the man who really shot JFK?

With elections in Britain coming up, Lang’s arch rival calls for charges to be brought against Lang asserting he is a war criminal. The Hague gets involved.

Lang is accused of handing over suspected terrorists to the CIA for torture. It is only when the Ghost finds some hidden papers stashed by his predecessor that he becomes embroiled in the scandal.

Based on the novel “The Ghost” by Robert Harris, the screenplay, attributed to Harris and director Roman Polanski, is intelligent and retains several appreciated witticisms. Ghost worries he is being set up like “a tethered goat.”

Polanski is 76 years old and in top form. The kind of privileged misery on display in THE GHOST WRITER suits him. The setting is perfect and the soundtrack wonderfully intense.

Brosnan has been around powerful people for so long he’s got the arrogant, casual, political power vibe down pat. And this is finally a performance McGregor can be proud of (and he keeps his modesty!). Cattrall has a role in which she can show her range, and Williams is dynamic as the dissatisfied, but powerful, wife.

The supporting cast is perfect, especially James Belushi (who has embraced his look to great effect here), Timothy Hutton, Eli Wallach, and the always remarkable Tom Wilkinson.

I recall reading (but an unable to find it online) a major magazine phone interview with Roman Polanski specifically for THE PIANIST. Polanski was rude and downright nasty. He was insulted that, as an artist, he had to sell his movie! He showed himself, and he is not a nice man.

Even someone as great as Michelangelo had to be nice to Pope Julius ll! Michelangelo probably was a bastard to his workmen, but he had to be at least polite to the Medicis.

* Nothing Roman Polanski does can be regarded without acknowledging his infamous history. It informs his artistry. I’m not fond of Polanski’s belief in his entitlement. He has a daughter who has now, I pray, passed the age of 13 without being drugged and anally raped by an older man.

The Los Angeles Times reported that on October 3, 2009 court filings indicated that Roman Polanski agreed to pay the victim in his child-sex case at least $500,000 as part of a civil settlement, but then failed to live up to the terms of the agreement.

The documents leave open the question of whether the fugitive filmmaker has ever paid the money he promised in the confidential 1993 settlement with Samantha Geimer, but a change in her approach to Polanski in subsequent years suggests they may have resolved the issue.

I recently read the 2002 book, “The Shadow Over Santa Susana: Black Magic, Mind Control and The “Manson Family” Mythos” by Adam Gorightly. There is much more to the Tate/La Bianca Murder victims and the Manson Family! Rosemary and Leno La Bianca were not random spree killer victims. And then there was the weird connection to the Process Church of the Final Judgment!

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