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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » February 23, 2010
The World of movies
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The Ghost Writer
February 23, 2010 By Witold Żygulski   
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The latest Roman Polanski movie is based on a best-selling novel by Robert Harris, a writer whose fiction has been adapted for the screen several times before (Fatherland from 1994 by Christopher Menaul, Enigma from 2001 by Michael Apted, and the made-for-television Archangel from 2005 by Jon Jones). Polanski's adaptation is a dark thriller that exposes the mechanisms of global politics and the ambition and pressures on people in high places. The movie robs the viewer of any optimism whatsoever.

The ghost of the title (Ewan McGregor-Trainspotting, Angels & Demons, the Star Wars series) is an anonymous writer hired to help Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan-Mamma Mia!, The Tailor of Panama, the James Bond series), a former British prime minister, with his autobiography. The publisher in the United States is getting impatient, having paid Lang $10 million. The previous ghost writer, who had been Lang's long-time associate during the latter's two decades at 10 Downing Street, drowned while under the influence in puzzling circumstances. Despite this unpleasant fact, the $250,000-per-month salary is argument enough for the new writer to take the job.

As for Lang, his situation is tricky. His temporary home is the publisher's property on a tiny island in New England, surrounded by armed security guards, but the pressing deadline is not the only reason why he is there. The International Criminal Court in the Hague has accused the former head of Her Majesty's government of war crimes, including charges of kidnapping British citizens and handing them over to U.S. special services as part of the war on terror. People come to the property to stage anti-Lang demonstrations and wherever Lang goes, he sees banners with insults thrown at him.

To make matters worse, the global crusade against Lang is headed by Robert Rycart (Robert Pugh-Enigma, Kingdom of Heaven director's cut), foreign minister in Lang's Cabinet whom Lang dismissed. Rycart is convinced that, throughout his political career, Lang was controlled by Washington and instead of the interests of the United Kingdom, all his decisions were dictated by the Americans. The long list of Lang's problems extends to his personal life as he maneuvers between his dominant wife Ruth (Olivia Williams-The Sixth Sense, The Body) and Amelia Bly, his assistant and lover (Kim Catrall-Sex and the City, Big Trouble in Little China).

The luckless ghost writer gets caught right in the middle of this political and private storm. He is reminiscent of another Polanski character, the collector of rare books and manuscripts Dean Corso whom Johnny Depp played in The Ninth Gate. The Ghost is pushing 40, likes to drink and is somewhat cynical in his belief that the world cannot be fixed. Still, when he realizes that stories told by Lang and his colleagues just do not add up, just like Corso he starts a private investigation that will expose a shocking truth. One of the key figures to solve the puzzle is Paul Emmett (Tom Wilkinson-Valkyrie, Batman Begins), a long-lost friend of Lang from Cambridge University and now a political scientist with a mysterious way of life.

Finding any weak spots in The Ghost Writer is futile. The whole cast are convincing in their roles and the script is written with surgical precision. The cinematography by Paweł Edelman (The Pianist, Ray) gives the impression that the sun never shines in the world. The score by Alexandre Desplat (The Queen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) adds to the gloom. Probably the only fault of the film is a blatant product placement by a premium automaker.
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