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The Ghost Writer (2010)

"Before viewing" talks don't have spoilers, but since there's no "After viewing" talk for this one, comments may have spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

Is the film worth your time?

As an entertaining mystery flick, The Ghost Writer has some things going for it — government intrigue, mysterious figures, hidden back-stories, etc. — but I didn’t find it to really hold together all that well. Individual parts are well-crafted enough, with real tension in the suspense, but the whole is not much more than a loose association — in some cases a mere collection — of parts wrapped around the central character’s path. Still, moment-by-moment, it’s entertaining enough.

There are a lot of questions it could have asked, but it was content to stay on the surface. Plenty in the storyline offers the potential for opening questions to ponder about life or pulling us in emotionally to deeper observation about the characters’ choices. But the film didn’t go there. Hidden motives remain entirely hidden. Sudden choices by characters are simply that, with little context or insight into the choices. Then there is an underlying political reference — no, a sardonic accusation — relating to the geopolitical scene of recent years, but it is presented flatly and with little development, so it doesn’t build credibility (though some will no doubt, being predisposed to its political leanings, enjoy its satiric bite). All this leaves lots of room for imagination: You can make of the film most anything that you want to.

The performances are mostly good, particularly Ewan McGregor’s in the lead role. There are some good camera shots, including some beautiful dark weather, but its good technical craft fights an uphill battle, and in places the editing works against the climb. So, I wouldn’t put The Ghost Writer high on your viewing priority list — unless the storyline happens to intrigue you.

A ghost writer is hired to edit the memoirs of former British Prime Minister, Adam Lang. The previous ghost writer died; the story is that he got extremely drunk and fell off a ferry boat. Events start spinning around the ghost writer, and not all the pieces fit. More pieces fall into his lap, and he becomes further drawn in, seeking to find how to put them all together. Running time: 128 min.

The film has plenty of suspenseful moments, one shooting, a bit of strong language, cigarettes, and alcohol. Two lovers are under the covers naked, and his buttocks are shown briefly.

  • Director: Roman Polanski
  • Screenplay: Robert Harris and Roman Polanski, based on novel by Robert Harris
  • Leads: Ewan McGregor, Kim Cattrall, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams
  • Cinematography: Pawel Edelman
  • Music: Alexandre Desplat


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