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THE GHOST WRITER (2010)


Director: Roman Polanski

Writers: Robert Harris (screenplay), Roman Polanski (screenplay)
(Based on the novel THE GHOST by Robert Harris)

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA): PG-13 (for language, brief nudity/sexuality, some violence and a drug reference)

Runtime: 128 min

Genres: Mystery, Thriller

Reviewed by Larry Jung

Who really is Adam Lang?

The world knows him as the Prime Minister of Great Britain during the height of the U.S. led war on terrorism. During his premiership, Lang became unpopular as being too cozy with the U.S., especially on the war on terror.

Now retired, his political enemies, most active among them being Lang's former Foreign Minister, are actively pursuing indictment for war crimes against Lang. As the story unfolds the International Criminal Court (ICC) is seriously considering charging Adam Lang for handing over British citizens alleged as terrorist to the CIA for interrogation and torture. But were Lang's actions for the greater good? Did his means justify the end of keeping his country and his countrymen safe? At one point, Adam Lang bursts out in frustration. If there were two airlines, would you send your children to fly with the airline with no security screening, no effective intelligence network to prevent terrorists attacks or would you send your children to fly the airline with the best security and intelligence humanly possible to stop any terrorist even stepping on to the airport? As Prime Minister he had to deal with body and soul, not the niceties of the courtroom wordplay.

The answer lies in Lang's memoirs. But here lies more mysteries. Did the first ghostwriter really commit suicide or was he murdered because his researches into Lang's early life accidently uncovered a nasty secret? As the new ghostwriter starts his job revising the memoirs for publication, he begins to find himself drawn into the dirty world of power and influence.

I liked the way the film uses setting to show the different ways Adam Lang is under siege. The island of the Vineyard (Martha's Vineyard) is cold, gray, and stormy. The island is being used by Lang to isolate him from the world like some medieval fortress guarded by its defensive moat. On another level, Lang is exiled on the island like Napoleon was on Elba in 1814. The villa resembles a blockhouse or bunker guarding the beaches of Normandy during World War II. The interior is stark and impersonal.

The pace is deliberate, almost plodding, as one discovery leads to further clues. But the film is saved by Roman Polanki's stylish direction and performances of Pierce Bronsnan as Adam Lang the recent British Prime Minister, Ewan McGregor as the Ghost Writer, Kim Cattrall as Amelia Bly the personal assistant to Adam Lang. In particular, I enjoyed the contrast between the Amelia Bly character and Ruth, Lang's wife, as a sort of mirror of Adam Lang's public image: admired and disliked.

It is hard to imagine Pierce Bronsnan as frumpy, but his portrayal of the out-of-office Prime Minister Adam Lang is of a man who slouches and drinks. Whatever demons haunting Lang are taking their toll on this once charismatic leader. You can see Lang's moral and physical deterioration.

GHOST WRITER is a political thriller, not an action thriller. With this in mind, overall, I enjoyed GHOST WRITER.

If you liked ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, I think you will enjoy GHOST WRITER.

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