Film Review

Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer

Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer is a tantalizing political l thriller with one powerhouse performance from Pierce Brosnan as the UK’s shadiest former politician, a galaxy of terrific supporting talent, some truly inspired bits of brilliantly orchestrated suspense, and Ewan McGregor too. He plays the titular ghost writer, a handpicked scribe first hired to unofficially pen the memoirs of Brosnan’s fiery former Prime Minister, an endeavour that turns into much more of an… involved position than anyone ever planned on. The moment he arrives at the man’s lavish Cape Cod private island residence, a nasty scandal springs forth in the media that forces him into hiding and causes McGregor to suspiciously question his past, both personal and professional. McGregor serves as kind of an audience proxy and gives a solid if unremarkable turn, but Brosnan removes the muffler and fires on all cylinders for a charismatic, cunning barnstormer of a performance, especially in the last act where his life and reputation are thoroughly unravelled. The supporting cast is wonderful, with Olivia Williams being the standout as Brosnan’s long suffering wife who teeters on the brink between loyalty and exasperation. Jon Bernthal is McGregor’s agent, Timothy Hutton and a startlingly bald Jim Belushi are bigwig fixers for Brosnan and there’s nice work from Kim Cattrall, Robert Pugh, a fossilized Eli Wallach and a subtle Tom Wilkinson as a mysterious lynchpin character. The film has a luxurious, over two hour runtime which allows you properly sink into the serpentine narrative full of murky political espionage, dirty secrets, sins of the past, clandestine shifts in power and some truly impressive Hitchcockian twists of fate. Much of the action is set on Brosnan’s beautiful Cape Cod island home, which is actually filmed in Germany and Denmark because, as we know, Polanski can’t go stateside but it looks and feels right just the same and provides a chilly, mist shrouded coastal atmosphere that suits the mysterious nature of this story unfolding. The ending is a kick right in the balls in several different ways and each character reaches the end of their arc with a ruthless, grim yet very appropriate sense of dark, poetic and karmic justice. Excellent film.

-Nate Hill

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