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Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer

4.2 7
Director: Roman Polanski, Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall

Cast: Roman Polanski, Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall


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A ghostwriter stumbles onto a secret that places his life in danger as he takes down the life story of a former U.K. prime minister in this Roman Polanski-helmed adaptation of the Robert Harris novel. Convinced by his agent that he's been granted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, talented British


A ghostwriter stumbles onto a secret that places his life in danger as he takes down the life story of a former U.K. prime minister in this Roman Polanski-helmed adaptation of the Robert Harris novel. Convinced by his agent that he's been granted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, talented British screenwriter "The Ghost" (Ewan McGregor) agrees to aid British prime minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) in completing his memoirs after the leader's former aide dies under mysterious circumstances. Almost immediately after The Ghost arrives at a remote mansion in the U.S. to begin working with the prime minister, Lang is accused of committing a war crime by a former British cabinet minister. Amidst a deluge of protestors and reporters, The Ghost delves into the unfinished manuscript and comes to the terrifying conclusion that his predecessor died because he discovered a link between Prime Minister Lang and the CIA. The more information The Ghost uncovers, the more convinced he becomes that his life could be in danger as well.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Roman Polanski's legal troubles, including his arrest in Switzerland for fleeing prosecution in the United States three decades ago, may have been the basis for most of the press coverage that the director has received over the past six months. The release of The Ghost Writer may alter the nature of his public profile more than a bit, regardless of Mr. Polanski's personal travails. The movie is filled with rewarding performances and a low-key, unobtrusive directorial style that allows it to unfold across its 128-minute length at a pace that manages to be unforced yet exciting, with enough continuous tension -- and strategically placed thrills and pieces of a puzzle -- to carry that length without ever losing the viewer. He is aided considerably by a brace of superb performances by all concerned, most notably by Pierce Brosnan (proving that the actor was wasted in the role of James Bond) as the man at the core of the mystery, a former British prime minister who is at the center of accusations of being a war criminal, based on his anti-terrorism policies. Brosnan seems to embody the modern incarnation of the banality of evil, a man of few principles and limited intelligence and imagination, whose simple-mindedness, veiled in a vacuous, pleasant smile, makes him seem like a British take on former president George W. Bush. Brosnan's seeming antagonist across most of the length of this thriller/drama is Ewan McGregor as "The Ghost" (that's the only way anyone ever refers to him in the film), a professional ghost writer engaged to salvage the ten-million-dollar memoir written about former prime minister Adam Lang (Brosnan). It's an assignment that has, as we see in the opening minutes, already resulted in the death of Lang's original collaborator and longtime aide, under the most mysterious circumstances (a drowning, apparently by suicide, on the ferry serving the Massachusetts compound where Lang and his entourage are sequestered, while on an American speaking tour). McGregor is amazingly good in a role that gives him relatively little to work with -- his is a character that not only has no name, but no past to speak of and no family entanglements, so his experience shouldn't resonate much with the audience. But what should become a cipher that few can penetrate instead becomes a kind of big-screen everyman for audience members to relate to -- up to a point. This is a very cold movie at its center, very distant, despite McGregor's success at fleshing out a character that is hardly more than a skeleton, in terms of what he brings to us. He's just vulnerable enough, and surprised and skeptical enough -- about what he's been asked to do, and the world of politics to which he's been asked to enter -- to give us something to grab on to. Polanski, perhaps working from some of the frustrations inherent (from his point-of-view) in his own circumstances, is able to convey the maddening side of international law, and the machinations of governments dealing with embarrassments in their midst. That element, along with a lot of cynicism about government and the motivations of the people allegedly working for it, is palpable throughout this film. The Ghost Writer is actually a rich cinematic experience on several levels. There is the topical side, which is deceptive -- most audience members will assume that ex-British prime minister Tony Blair is the basis for Brosnan's character, but the original book by Robert Harris (who collaborated on the screenplay with Polanski) was conceived in the early '90s, long before Blair was PM, at a time when Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean leader, was the most prominent national leader being accused of crimes against humanity. Still, the screenplay and Polanski's realization of it do trade in images that are unavoidable in their parallels to more recent events (even of the last few weeks in Blair's case), which can't hurt the movie's box office. But parallel to this seeming film à clef fiction are the deceptions all around that litter the plot -- Olivia Williams (recalling Claire Bloom in her youthful prime) gives a chilling performance as the wife of the accused, a woman whose attributes most patently do not include loyalty, at least to people. And Kim Cattrall is a major surprise in this picture -- she's one of those actresses who is almost too beautiful for her own good, giving a fine performance here that is almost lost amid the camera's exploration of her physical allure. Polanski's interest in younger members of the fairer sex is well-documented (almost to the point of embarrassment to all concerned), but he (and cinematographer Pawel Edelman) seem quite capable, based on the evidence here, of savoring (in visual terms) the allure of the mature actress, as well. (There's also what amounts to a cameo by Eli Wallach that is well worth the attention it is given in the script, and the place it occupies in the action.) Alexandre Desplat's music is also a striking virtue, minimalist yet attractive, without being distracting, and filled with vivid timbres that only add to the levels of suspense and the engrossing nature of the picture. If there is a flaw in The Ghost Writer, it is in "The Ghost." McGregor is fine in the role, but in the end, he isn't a real character, because there isn't anything there that one can fully embrace, in the manner of, say, Robert Redford's hero in Three Days of the Condor or Warren Beatty in The Parallax View. We follow McGregor, accept what he is doing, and never lose focus on the movie, but in the end, there's no "there" there, and the last section, in which the mystery is unraveled, is the only part of the movie that not only seems rushed, but cold and relatively ineffective. It makes for a slight letdown in the wake of everything else we've seen. What there is, instead, is a finely made and beautiful looking film that is a conjuring trick on a lot of levels -- Polanski obviously never got near the United States in making this movie, but one forgets it almost instantly from the first frame. And the widescreen film, with a very lively soundtrack, will have to be seen in theaters to be properly appreciated -- this might not be the Massachusetts coast, but the outdoor sequences, of which there are many, just will not translate well onto a screen of less than 60 or 70 inches, if that. It's a great movie to see, and an easy one to enjoy, and will also recall thrillers of a now-distant era of the 1970s and early '80s, when Watergate, among other matters, threw a dark cloud over the espionage and mystery genres. Indeed, in terms of mysteries and thrillers, parallels with Polanski's earlier work cannot be avoided -- one almost wishes that someone would say to McGregor's "Ghost," at some point, the operant line from Chinatown: "You may think you know what you're dealing with, but believe me, you don't."

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Summit Inc/Lionsgate
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound, Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

The Ghost Writer: Fiction or Reality; The Cast of The Ghost Writer; An Interview With Roman Polanski

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Ewan McGregor The Ghost
Pierce Brosnan Adam Lang
Kim Cattrall Amelia Bly
Olivia Williams Ruth Lang
Tom Wilkinson Paul Emmett
Jim Belushi James Maddox
Eli Wallach Old Man
Timothy Hutton Sidney Kroll
Robert Pugh Robert Rycart
David Rintoul Stranger
Jon Bernthal Rick Rickardelli
Tim Preece Roy
Anna Botting SKY TV Newsreader
Yvonne Tomlinson Stewardess
Milton Welch Taxi Driver
Alister Mazzotti Protection Officer No. 1
Tim Faraday Barry
Kate Copeland Alice
Soogi Kang Dep
Hong Thay Lee Duc
John Keogh Protection Officer No. 2
Hans-Peter Sussner Protection Officer No. 3
Stuart Austen Protection Officer No. 4
Marianne Graffam Lucy
Morgane Polanski Hotel Receptionist
Andy Güting Protection Officer No. 5
Robert Wallhofer Protection Officer No. 6
Glenn Conroy Barman
Robert Seeliger CNN Newscaster
Clayton Nemrow Journalist
Julia Kratz Woman with Bullhorn
Nyasha Hatendi Josh
Daphne Alexander Connie
Angelique Fernandez War Crimes Prosecutor
Anne Whittman CNN Newscaster
Michael S. Ruscheinsky CNN Reporter
Mo Asumang U.S. Secretary of State
Sylke Ferber Island Ferry Attendant
Desiree Erasmus Nancy Emmett
Errol Shaker Mainland Ferry Attendant
Errol Harewood C.I.A. Agent on Ferry
Talin Lopez C.I.A. Agent on Ferry
Joel Kirby Motel Receptionist
Regine Hentschel Diner Waitress
Jeff Burrell Frank
Daniel Sutton Hatherton Stewart
Eben Young FBI Agent
Jaymes Butler FBI Agent
Alexandre Desplat Conductor

Technical Credits
Roman Polanski Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Robert Benmussa Producer
Timothy Burrill Co-producer
Dinah Collin Costumes/Costume Designer
Elisa Costa Makeup
Hervé de Luze Editor
Alexandre Desplat Score Composer
Pawel Edelman Cinematographer
Elisa Costa Ellis Makeup
Christoph Fisser Co-producer
Michael Fissneider Set Decoration/Design
Jean-Max Guerin Makeup
Robert Harris Screenwriter
Albrecht Konrad Production Designer
Didier Lavergne Makeup
Gabriele Lins Production Manager
Henning Molfenter Executive Producer
Cornelia Ott Art Director
Jeremi Prokopowicz Camera Operator
Ralph Remstedt Asst. Director
Alain Sarde Producer
Steve Summersgill Art Director
Mikael Tanguy Special Effects Supervisor
Fiona Weir Casting
Carl L. Woebcken Co-producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Ghost Writer
1. What Have You Gotten Me Into? [12:13]
2. Confidentiality Agreement [6:38]
3. I'm Your Ghost [4:01]
4. Ready To Start? [6:47]
5. Adam Lang Under Suspicion [5:43]
6. You're The Only Guest In The Hotel [4:30]
7. That Makes You An Accomplice [7:26]
8. Clearing Out Mike's Belongings [4:24]
9. Flashlights On The Beach [7:24]
10. The Lead Story [7:48]
11. Bad Idea [5:08]
12. You Have Reached Your Destination [6:24]
13. The Wall Of Ego [1:06]
14. The Last Ferry [7:22]
15. The Hatherton Group [5:47]
16. Working For A War Criminal [8:48]
17. You're The Key Witness [6:09]
18. Something About The Beginnings [8:48]


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The Ghost Writer 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Critic-Cat More than 1 year ago
Pretty intriguing story as you're still yet to find out whether Pierce Brosnan is really a war criminal or is he 'accused'? Based on the book/memoirs he's trying to publish, does it actually says it all? Well, he was murdered anyways, but will it prove him of his innocence or there are more underlying? Turned out that Pierce Brosnan's wife, Ruth Lang (Olivia Wiliams) was recruited as a CIA Agent by Professor Paul Emmett? Mind-twisting indeed. So, who's behind this after all?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a sort of movie which is best viewed if you don't know too much about the plot, because the so-called twists are rather predictable. That being said, I truly thought it was an excellent movie. The acting was great across the board. Pierce Brosnan is superb as an ex-British Prime Minister and Ewan McGregor allows the viewer to truly live vicariously in the story as the skilled, if slightly naive ghost writer. The real gem with the acting though is Olivia Williams as Ruth, the wife of the ex-Prime minister. Her performance is extremely subtle and complex lending the over-arching credibility to the whole film. See it, you won't regret it.
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