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The Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer

By Jonahh Oestreich • January 3rd, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
THE GHOST WRITER (MOVIE)
Optimum Releasing

Original release: September 20th, 2010
Running time: 128 minutes

Director: Roman Polanski
Writers: Roman Polanski, Robert Harris
Music by: Alexandre Desplat

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Hutton, Jon Bernthal, Eli Wallach

The Ghost Writer

Looking deep into someone else’s abyss can be an experience of epic proportions. Alfred Hitchcock was a master at illuminating the darkest depths of the human soul. In The Ghost Writer, veteran director Roman Polanski holds a parabolic mirror over more than one abyss, and what we get to see are the brutal reflections of a rotten political culture and its prominent faces.

Yet the story is far from being a depressing portrait of modern politics. It is an almost cynical, at times satirical account of the ways once powerful politicians fail to cope with their new-found insignificance. Based on Robert Harris’ political thriller (published 2007, Harris also wrote the script), the greater part of The Ghost Writer is set on a well-known island off the US east coast, where former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) is finishing his memoirs.

When Lang’s ghost writer mysteriously drowns, a nameless British replacement is hired (Ewan McGregor) who so far hasn’t written political memoirs and seems most suitable buffing the Prime Minister’s biography. Just on his way to the United States, the new ghost realizes his assignment is doomed. A leaked memorandum reveals that Adam Lang approved the transfer of terror suspects, also UK citizens, into CIA custody to face interrogation and torture.

The Ghost Writer

About to be charged with war crimes at the International Criminal Court (which Lang calls ‘kangaroo court’), the ex Prime Minister is exiled and trapped in his self-righteous demeanour. His new ghost writer makes himself an accomplice by drafting a press release in Lang’s favour, but he soon gets suspicious about the death of his predecessor and follows the clues left behind by the dead man.

He shares his insights with Lang’s wife Ruth (Olivia Williams), a smart ‘grey eminence’ suffering loads and holding a grudge against her husband’s assistant-mistress (Kim Cattrall). Ruth’s romantic intermezzo with the new ghost writer ends in a reality-laden morning after. No true love there, political expediencies stay omnipresent, and at this level a number of fatalities is inevitable.

The Ghost Writer is a thrilling ride through mindscapes of guilt, deceit and betrayal. Polanski’s visual language deepens the haunting dimension of Harris’ story, and conveys a sense of isolation and utter bleakness. The grey and ever so rainy island The Ghost Writeris a perfect stage for the tense narrative and the mental turbulences of its characters.

Harris’ novel was imputed an act of revenge against former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Though the story has a Blair-ish element, saying so is not much more than stating the obvious, like saying The Ghost Writer is honing conspiracy theories.

The Ghost Writer tells the story of an ordinary guy thrown into a strange world and not quite able to cope with it. None of the other characters is actually an antagonist, for his main concern is the manuscript he is supposed to polish, and the dark truths it allegedly holds. Ultimately, this manuscript turns into a character in it’s own right, destined to solve the mystery of the story.

At this point the movie stays behind the expectations it raises. The strong logic of the plot never really allows for things to turn crazy which makes the rather rare twists predictable. The Ghost Writer is just one dare short of being a true masterpiece.

The Ghost Writer

Jonahh Oestreich

Jonahh Oestreich

One of the Editors in Chief and our webmaster, Jonahh is a photographer and journalist who has been working in the media industry for over 15 years, mainly in television, design and art. As a boy, he made his first short film with an 8mm camera and the help of his father. His obsession with (moving) images and stories hasn’t faded since.

His passion for intricate stories and the ‘seven basic plots’ (ask him!) often times makes his friends and family put him in the doghouse for "predicting" too many twists and endings.

You can follow Jonahh on Twitter @Resonance_Zero.

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