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Ruining A Good Story With Too Much Research

August 10th, 2010 · No Comments

Ghost Writer 2010 Ewan McGregor

Roman Polanski was born August 18, 1933 in Paris. The sordid details of his flight from the United States in 1978 have often overshadowed discussion of the director’s work, which at the age of 77, includes one of the best films of 2010. Is he a world class filmmaker? In the month of August, I take a look at ten directed by Roman Polanski.

The Ghost Writer 2010 poster The Ghost Writer dvd

The Ghost Writer (2010)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Screenplay by Robert Harris & Roman Polanski, based on the novel The Ghost by Robert Harris
Produced by Roman Polanski, Robert Benmussa, Alain Sarde
128 minutes

Humming with gleeful malevolence, The Ghost Writer would be considered a throwback to the political thrillers of the 1970s — like The Parallax View or Three Days of the Condor — if it wasn’t so much fun. For 15 years, Robert Harris had wanted to write about the relationship between a politician and his ghostwriter. He found a story in 2006 when Tony Blair became dogged by accusations of war crimes on his way out of 10 Downing Street. Moving one step further, Harris imagined a British prime minister who’d been installed by the CIA and the ghostwriter who stumbles onto the truth while researching a memoir. Briefly envisioned as a stageplay along the lines of Sleuth, Harris wrote a novel instead. When Roman Polanski’s production of Harris’ historical thriller Pompeii was shelved in 2007 over financing, the author sent Polanski his manuscript for The Ghost.

Once Harris & Polanski adapted a script in Paris, Polanski and his producers were able to raise financing of €32 million (roughly $45 million) from private funding sources in Europe. Collaborating with cinematographer Pawel Edelman for the third consecutive film and editor Hervé De Luze for the sixth, Polanski’s acumen with the thriller chimes The Ghost Writer along like a Swiss clock that strikes cuckoo at the top of the hour. The compound and the coastal wilderness where much of the action takes place — interiors were shot at Studio Babelsberg and exteriors on the German island of Sylt — distinguish the movie visually, but it’s insidious wit that makes The Ghost Writer so enjoyable. Few directors would pull away from the plot to focus on a Filipino gardener raking leaves in a windstorm. It’s a triumphant return to form for Polanski. Alexandre Desplat composed the film’s playful musical score.

Ghost Writer 2010 title card

An unnamed British writer we’ll know only as The Ghost (Ewan McGregor) lunches with his agent (Jon Bernthal) and is put up for the job of rewriting the memoirs of former prime minister Adam Lang when the body of the previous ghostwriter — a loyal aide to the politician — washes up on the shores of New England. A political novice, The Ghost passes the scrutiny of publishing exec John Maddox (James Belushi) and Lang’s D.C. attorney Sidney Kroll (Timothy Hutton) when he promises a memoir that the layperson can relate to. Dispatched to the desolate island of “Old Haven”, where Lang’s publisher has lent him his American vacation compound, The Ghost meets Lang’s personal assistant Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall), his cunning wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) and the charismatic Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) himself.

As The Ghost interviews Lang — a student actor who became interested in politics when he met Ruth — the International Criminal Court announces an investigation into the ex-prime minister on charges he approved the kidnap and torture of four terror suspects from Pakistan. As media and human rights activists descend on the island, The Ghost is moved onto the compound for security. He discovers proof that Lang was politically active two years earlier than he claims and that the previous ghostwriter was the one who leaked the human rights scandal to British Prime Minister Richard Rycart (Robert Pugh). Sneaking onto the mainland to interview Lang’s mysterious college mentor Paul Emmett (Tom Wilkinson), The Ghost unravels a plot indicating that Lang may have been recruited and run by the CIA.

Ghost Writer 2010

Ghost Writer 2010 Ewan McGregor

Ghost Writer 2010 Olivia Williams Pierce Brosnan

Ghost Writer 2010 Ewan McGregor Kim Cattrall

Ghost Writer 2010 Pierce Brosnan

Ghost Writer 2010 Kate Copeland Ewan McGregor Kim Cattrall Marianne Graffam

Ghost Writer 2010 Olivia Williams

Ghost Writer 2010 Ewan McGregor

Ghost Writer 2010 Tom Wilkinson

Ghost Writer 2010

Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 7,950 users: 70% for The Ghost Writer

Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: 77 for The Ghost Writer

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Tags: Alternate universe · Based on novel · Bathtub scene · Femme fatale · Forensic evidence · Interrogation · Murder mystery · No opening credits · Paranoia · Small town

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