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Catching Up on 2010: Josh Reviews The Ghost Writer

While I try not to let a filmmaker’s personal life interfere with my enjoyment of their work, I must admit that I didn’t exactly feel a burning desire to rush out and see the latest Roman Polanski film, 2010’s The Ghost Writer. However, while Mr. Polanski’s somewhat sordid past did give me pause, I must of course acknowledge his tremendous skills as a filmmaker.  So, in that respect, his involvement in The Ghost Writer also piqued my interest in the film.  I wondered what sort of spin Mr. Polanski had brought to a story that looked, on the surface, like a pretty run-of-the-mill thriller.  This push-pull on my interest resulted in my passing on the film in theatres, but adding it to my Netflix queue once it came out on DVD.

(And that, my friends, is a little extra free-of-charge insight into how my brain works!)

In the film, Ewan McGregor plays the titular ghost writer.  (Interestingly enough, his character’s actual name is never given.)  He’s a professional author, hired to help famous people complete their memoirs/autobiographies/etc.  The ghost writer’s services are called into play, at the start of the film, to help beleaguered British politician Adam Lang.  Mr. Lang, once the British Prime Minister, is now under fire for allegedly allowing suspected terrorists to be tortured while he was the PM.  That, plus the untimely death of his last ghost writer, has put a wrinkle in the progress of his upcoming book.  With the political scandal reaching fever pitch, the book’s publisher is desperate to get the book completed and on the shelves in great haste, and so Ewan McGregor’s character is dispatched to the Lang compound to begin work immediately.

Except, no surprise, things quickly become very complicated for the ghost.  He finds himself faced with Mr. Lang, a politician under siege, who seems extraordinarily affable at times and yet reluctant to open up about himself or his past; Lang’s wife Ruth (Olivia Williams), who seems sympathetic but also extremely tightly-wound; and a growing mystery about Adam Lang’s past and what may or may not have happened to his ghost writer predecessor.

Pierce Brosnan was widely-praised for his performance as Adam Lang, and rightly so.  He brings all the charisma and bluster of a great politician to the fore, while also hinting at a dangerous edge that just might lie right below the surface.  He constantly keeps the audience guessing as to whether he’s a noble politician beset by pernicious enemies, or whether Adam Lang is in fact a much more sinister character.  Speaking of keeping the audience guessing, so too does the wonderful Olivia Williams (Dollhouse, Rushmore) as his wife Ruth.  She is wonderfully creepy … [continued]