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VINE VOICEon March 10, 2010
"The Ghost Writer" is a Roman Polanski political thriller of the first order. It is very cleverly plotted with gripping suspense and narrative drive that pulls you into the story. Some movies of late have seemed endless; in this one I was completely unaware of time passing and was completely enthralled by this story of the deepest intrigue. It's full of conspiracies, and the whole thing is done in a very classy, sophisticated manner that will remind you of Hitchcock at his very best. It's engrossing and involving.
The acting is top-notch with Ewan McGregor very effective as the ghost writer who has been brought in to liven up the memoirs of a former prime minister (played extremely well by Pierce Brosnan). He is a Tony Blair figure who has been fingered for war crimes by one of his former cabinet ministers. He has ordered the arrest and rendering out of Britain of suspects so that they could be tortured for information.
The movie begins in gloomy, leaden weather on the ferry to Martha's Vineyard. A car is discovered without a driver. The man's body turns up later on the island, the victim of accident, suicide, or as we rightly assume, murder. Foul play indeed! He is the previous ghost writer who has now been replaced by McGregor. And of course he found out too much while doing his research. McGregor, of course, knows he could be a target as well.
Polanski has deliberately made very mundane matters seem full of import and menace. It's full of clues and mysterious doings in the austere modernistic house so alien to the Vineyard. The cinematography and atmospherics are terrific. A lot of sinister-seeming goings-on.
They don't make them this good anymore, and I think viewers will be pleasantly surprised. The intellectually curious and politically savvy will be impressed, I think. Pierce Brosnan by the force of his personality makes Tony Blair seem like a naïve schoolboy by comparison.
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VINE VOICEon January 10, 2011
Watching this film for the second time I was struck by how great of a director Roman Polanski is. This is a director, who at the age of 76 can still direct a high-minded suspense thriller that doesn't rely on violence or even plot to drive the suspense; a a throwback to classic suspense films, driven by atmosphere and directorial skill.

Ewan McGregor plays the unnamed ghost writer hired to ghostwrite the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) after Lang's previous ghostwriter dies under mysterious circumstances. Soon after the Ghost arrives at Lang's beach house, where he's staying with his wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) and assistant Amelia (Kim Cattrall), controversy erupts over Lang's alleged involvement in handing terrorist suspects over to the CIA to be tortured.

Many recognizable faces appear in The Ghost Writer including James Belushi, Timothy Hutton, and Tom Wilkinson, in a terrific bit role. 95-year-old Eli Wallach also participates in the film and his brief scene brought a smile to my face. The performances are solid all-around; Ewan McGregor carries the film as the mysterious protagonist, while Pierce Brosnan gives his best performance in years as Adam Lang. Even Kim Cattrall does a solid job that should silence the skepticism over her cast. Olivia Williams (probably best known for Rushmore) makes the biggest impression in a performance that will likely be tragically overlooked come Oscar season.

The Ghost Writer is a masterpiece of atmosphere and tone, being more in control of those elements than almost any recent film that I can think of. There's a sense of dread that hangs over the entire film, inviting similarities to Polanski's The Ninth Gate (which I believe Polanski was aware of with the addition of the mysterious motorcyclist early in the film). Polanski greatly utilizes his brilliant cinematographer Pawel Edelman, wonderful production design, and completely unnoticeable green screen effects to capture exactly the atmosphere he envisioned. With a complete grasp over this atmosphere, the film really draws you in to the story. A quietly foreboding score by Alexander Desplat also lends to the film's suspenseful atmosphere and will also likely find itself overlooked for Best Original Score.

Viewers have criticized the Ghost using Google search which is just lazy, idiotic criticism. The Ghost doesn't solve any huge mystery, but merely finds a few clues that seemed perfectly reasonable to find. The internet is a remarkable tool and in a world with access to such a vast source of information, why can't a film protagonist use it? I was so involved in the film at this point; I had no problem with him using it. As for the film being political "propaganda," this is false. Much like the term "pretentious" is now used by people to describe something they don't like or understand; "propaganda" is being used to describe this film by people who don't agree with the parallels the film makes with Tony Blair and his relationship with the U.S. government. The Ghost Writer is a political suspense-thriller meant to entertain, not to sway anyone's political opinion. Regardless of the political implications it may make, you can't deny the film's greatness.

The film's ending is so well-filmed and well-executed, it's a testament to what a masterful director Roman Polanski is. The complaints about the ending can only come from people expecting a typical Hollywood-thriller where everything is wrapped up nicely with the good guy going home and the bad guy(s) going to jail. Those familiar with the work of Polanski will be pleased that he hasn't lost his pessimistic outlook. It's a first-rate ending that is so poetic it's a perfect end to this great film.

The Ghost Writer is the best suspense film of 2010 and one of the best films of 2010. Polanski remains one of the great suspense directors and his latest film is so well-made and so well-acted, I cannot heap enough praise on it. I hesitate to call a film perfect, but The Ghost Writer is as near-perfect as movies get. They rarely make films like this anymore.

GRADE: A

*For the American release of the film some profanity is noticeably dubbed over. Editing the film's profanity to get a PG-13 rating was a ridiculous decision as I can't imagine anyone under 17 wanting to see this film. With that said, the noticeable dubbing did not affect my enjoyment of the movie and it gives the moment when the "f-word" is used much more of an impact. With that said, a DVD-release should have given us a version with the original dialogue restored.
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on February 28, 2010
This movie is bound to raise some ire and all for the wrong reasons. The controversy surrounding Polanski will dominate the argument. I feel that is incredibly unfair to every one else who has worked on this movie. So I am going to separate the art from the artist.

In what has to be one of the best casting decisions, Pierce Brosnan plays Adam Lang the former Prime Minister of UK. Embroiled in a controversy regarding the rendition program, he has sought refuge in America. Ewan McGregor (he is never given a name) is hired as a ghost writer after the original one dies in a mysterious accident.

Your average thriller would start out with the base setup and build on the tension leading upto the finale. But in Ghost Writer the tension is always palpable. Even in the most mundane of scenes you are never allowed to settle. The remarkable background score by Alexandre Desplat and the camera work of Pawel Edelman which paints predominantly in varying shades of bleakness play a huge part in achieving that.

Pierce Brosnan is brilliant as a conflicted man who had to make difficult decisions in demanding situations. The movie very wisely chooses not take a stance on where it stands on those decisions. Olivia Williams as Ruth Lang produces an impressive multi-faceted performance in a meaty role - the kind rare in Hollywood these days.

So if you are open to separating the art from the artist, definitely watch this movie.
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A ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) is hired to replace a previous writer that was found waterlogged. His job is to go to a remote island and organize the memoirs of an ex-British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan.) He suspects not all is well but it takes a few discoveries to determine that there is more to the memoirs than just names and dates. He may not be an invective reporter but he is too nosy to let it go. What he cannot let go of could very well mean his life. Then again, maybe it will all work out for the best. We get to discover the layers of mystery together with the ghostwriter. We also get to tell him to "stay in the car" but does he ever listen.

The movie is formula and politically charged. Yet we get to enjoy the suspense without a lot of blood and gore, no excess of explicative's or over cranked chase scenes. Roman Polanski seems to have mellowed out in his old age. Watching the movie, a second time will reveal the clues that were not blatant or masked.

I like the review of old actors in this presentation. I was surprised to see Eli Wallach. Aside from Kim Cattrall's accent, she was believable. Once Pierce Brosnan left those bond movies he also has become pretty good and fit the part in this film. I first became aware of Ewan McGregor from "Angels & Demons" then I remember seeing him around in a retroactive since; He can make expressions that speak better than words.

I only saw the Blue-Ray version so I cannot comment on other versions. I did find the documentary: The Ghost Writer: Fiction or Reality. Useful in sorting out the writer from the director, from the book.
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on November 28, 2011
I love this film, but I'll confine this review to the technical aspects of the Blu-Ray.

Sadly, this American Summit Blu-Ray has all the cursing very poorly redubbed in order to get a PG-13. There are probably 15-20 instances of redubbing, almost always showing an actor in closeup, with their lips moving very obviously to other words.

Trust me, the cursing helps the film enormously. The replacement words are unintentionally funny and dull the impact of those scenes - the cursing is a vital aspect of the characters.

Luckily, there is a Canadian Blu-Ray with the exact same transfer of the film and the exact same extras. Indeed, I suspect it is an identical disc, as my Blu-Ray player thought it was the same and started at the same point in the film.

The only difference is that the Canadian disc, mercifully, leaves the cursing untouched.

It can be found at the Canadian Amazon site. It is from E1 Entertainment and is easy to distinguish by its bilingual packaging. It's a bit more expensive, but believe me it's worth it.
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on February 7, 2015
Oddly suspenseful given the nature of being a Ghost Writer. I did find it rather peculiar that a movie would be based on the job that I do every day. This is a perfect example of why I stay away from ghost writing political based content and a scary reminder of how close I am while working with the clients that I do. This was definitely worth the watch and will leave its mark on me for the rest of my life.
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on May 11, 2015
Well-scripted insights into the life of a Ghost Writer in the vehicle of a Tony Blairesque ex-British Prime Minister and his wife living in an Architectural Digest modern concrete hide-away on Cape Cod. Ewan McGregor captures the the ghost's life under impossible deadlines living in tacky hotels and risking it all on the corporate jet, not to mention being seduced by the client's wife...
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on April 11, 2015
Brilliant movie.! Highly recommended political thriller. Roman Polanski, the director of the movie shot in Europe, was arrested in Switzerland by the US just prior to the premiere of the movie - interesting! There is no excusing what Polanski did in the 70s, but it appears that he got a little to close on this movie. You draw your own conclusions after seeing the movie.
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on March 24, 2013
"The Ghost Writer" (starring Ewan McGregor, not to be confused with "Ghost Writer" starring David Boreanaz) is one of those films that as soon as you reach the end of it, you immediately want to go back and watch it again, knowing what you know now. And if you do, you'll find that this film contains some incredibly powerful and extremely subtle acting, especially from Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, and Tom Wilkinson.

I don't want to spoil anything, but suffice it to say that the film seems completely credible when you view it the first time, and then becomes even more powerful upon viewing it a second time - all thanks to the phenomenal acting. Think of how challenging it is to an actor to know that the first time around the audience will view you one way, but the next time around they will view you another way, and both ways have to seem credible each time, but was only filmed once. The only weak acting is Kim Cattrall's scene where she has to cry, which comes across as forced; you watch the scene and know that the only reason she's "crying" is because the script told her to at that point. But the rest of the cast is awesome.

There are some deficiencies in the directing and the writing: scenes shot from angles that don't make clear sense, things that could have been made clearer in dialogue, plot points that should have been elaborated on but which feel missing. And there is some unnecessary confusion regarding "Rhinehart" (the publisher) and "Richard Rycart" (the Foreign Secretary) and even the ghost writer's agent, "Rick Ricardelli" (Jon Bernthal). With 26 letters in the English alphabet you'd think less similar names could have been chosen. Even if these were the names in the original book ("The Ghost" by Robert Harris) that doesn't mean they couldn't have been changed for a film audience's ears.

Last but not least, a shout-out for Alexandre Desplat ("Harry Potter," "Argo") whose score for this film sets the mood brilliantly and hauntingly.

In short, this is an underrated film that deserves more attention than it received. After you watch it, be sure to check out the making-of extras. You're going to be amazed that what you thought you were seeing wasn't what you really saw!
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on March 1, 2015
An eerie super stylish political thriller.The C.I.A. vs the Prime Minister? In the mood for a realistic political thriller? Great setting fake Martha's Vineyard/Cape Cod and Belmont MA. You will want to know.
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