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The Ghost Writer (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Run time 128 Minutes.

Not for children.

Roman Polanski admitted in court to drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles and then ran away (click here for details). Almost as reprehensible, his newest film paints Tony Blair and the USA as the bad guys in the war against terror. The CIA is pictured as evil as The Gestapo.

But he is also a talented filmmaker with leftwing credentials which is why the Hollywood left, like Whoopi Goldberg, flocked to his defense when the Los Angeles District Attorney, Steve Cooley, made his attempt to get Polanski back to face justice (to see a partial list of celebrities who flocked to his support, go to

An author (Ewan McGregor), who is not named throughout the movie, is hired to be a ghostwriter for former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), clearly patterned after Blair. During the course of his research, he discovers tantalizing secrets. This plunges him into intrigue involving Lang’s wife Ruth (Olivia Williams, who repeats the excellent performance she gave in last year’s “An Education”) and Lang’s aide Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall, who, freed from the constraints of “Sex and the City,” shines in a difficult role) and some other people he discovers.  Joining McGregor, Brosnan, Williams, and Cattrall in an excellent cast are Tom Wilkinson, Eli Wallach, Timothy Hutton, and Jim Belushi. Wilkinson gives another award-quality performance.

Similar to Polanski, Lang is trying to avoid a war crimes trial, so is living on an island off the east coast of the United States where he’s protected by the U.S. government, which might be a metaphor for Polanski living in Europe to avoid American justice. Because of Polanski's fugitive status in the U.S., this was filmed on location in Germany and at Studio Babelsberg.

McGregor calls Polanski one of our great living directors. He says that on the first day of shooting they worked 22 hours straight in a shoot that took three months. Polanski, who has co-writer credit with Robert Harris, who wrote the novel, “The Ghost,” upon which the film is based, exhibits Hitchcockian talent in many of his scenes. Like Hitchcock, Polanski imbues the shot of an object, like a house, with such sinister implications it creates tension in and of itself. The ambience Polanski creates keeping the tension at a high level throughout the film is greatly enhanced by the exceptional music of Alexandre Desplat.

Even so, it’s hard to comprehend why Hollywood continues to produce films that attack the United States for fighting Islamic extremists, but don’t make any films attacking the extremists. But this is a very enjoyable film, despite its POV.