In Roman Polanski‘s The Ghost Writer, Ewan McGregor plays a hack biographer hired to finish the memoirs of Britain’s Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), after the original ghost writer is found dead. He’s sent across the pond to Massachusetts where Lang and his wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) are staying in a house on Martha’s Vineyard. Not long after he arrives, he’s caught up in a scandal that sees Lang accused of war crimes. A series of twists and turns follows with strange and suspicious characters popping up around every corner.
This is a Polanski film so one expects it to be fairly slow and boring, and boy is this painfully slow and boring. I found myself focused on the fact that they were making Germany look like Massachusetts more than I was actually engaged in the film. Never once does Polanski attempt to push the boundaries of his artistic ability in this. With titles like Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, and The Pianist under his belt there’s no denying he’s one of the greats, but where Martin Scorsese’s recent film Shutter Island worked as a homage to the film noirs of the ’40s and ’50s, The Ghost Writer fails to earn a place among cinema’s great political thrillers such as All the President’s Men.
Acting-wise, McGregor, Brosnan, and Williams are all solid and enjoyable to watch but I’m still confused over the casting of Kim Cattrall as Lang’s secretary Amelia. Cattrall should only be allowed to play Samantha Jones in Sex and the City and that’s it. She’s great as that character. She IS that character. I will give her credit for her work in Police Academy back in 1986 but in everything else she’s terrible, and among the rest of the cast, which also includes Timothy Hutton, Tom Wilkinson, Eli Wallach, and James Belushi, she stands out like a sore thumb.
The problems with The Ghost Writer could stem from Polanski’s personal life and the circumstances under which he finished it (he was arrested in Switzerland over a sex crime he allegedly committed more than 30 years ago and was forced to edit from a jail cell). That doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s a bland movie not worth your time or money. My advice to you: if you want to see a decent thriller that won’t put you in a coma and might actually provide a few chills, go see Shutter Island. If you need to cure your insomnia go see The Ghost Writer.
2 out of 5 stars