“The Ghost Writer” Review
There is a lot to love about this quiet thriller, but it gets derailed because of a few poor performances and a middle-act that keeps all the mysterious clues locked inside the mind of the central character. I never felt that I was “let in” on the action. I was always curious, but never excited.
Ewan McGregor plays a ghost writer hired to pen the memoirs of the ex-Prime-Minister of Great Britain, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). The job comes his way as a result of the untimely passing of his predecessor, who washed up on the shores of Cape Cod just a few weeks earlier. It turns out that the drowning may not have been as accidental as the authorities believe.
Roman Polanski’s films always promise style and intelligence. “The Ghost Writer” delivers on both of those promises. Unfortunately, there were a few aspects of the movie that kept me at arm’s length throughout. I am usually a huge fan of Brosnan’s. I think everyone is. He is consistently underrated. However, he is labored here with awkward lines and a bizarre accent that doesn’t sound conversational or political. Consequently, the character is not believable in any scene. The only thing more irritating than hearing Adam Lang speak is listening to Kim Cattrall maul an upper-class English accent with more ferocity than Eliza Doolittle.
I was also rather disappointed to find that the film never lets us in on all of the action. Roger Ebert once brilliantly wrote that “It is often better to wonder what a character is thinking than to know.” The key to that sentence is the word “often”. He could have chosen the word “always”, but clearly there are times when the idea is not true. Sometimes, a film can be so obnoxiously quiet and secretive. Sometimes, a film is too restrained. Sometimes, I want to know what the hell is going on.
Still, I have to say that the conclusion was smart and satisfying. I liked the style and tone of the film. No one really does that better than Polanski. It is the kind of movie that has all of the right scenes… but not in the right order. “The Ghost Writer” needs a “do-over”. It was 90% of the way there, but just needed a ghost writer of its own to polish off the rough edges.