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Movie Review: The Ghost Writer

Alternate Title: Lies, Spies and Guise

Story: Say what you will about the personal life of Roman Polanski, he is a damned good filmmaker. His latest political thriller has a Hitchcockian feel to its entirety. It is foreboding, brooding and carries an ever present danger. My type of film for sure. It was directed by Roman Polanski and written by Mr. Polanski and Robert Harris and based on a novel by Mr. Harris.

Former British Prime Minister Adam Lang is writing his memoirs. His ghost writer has been found dead from an apparent suicide - or was it muuuuuuurder. A new ghost writer is hired to complete the project in one month's time. Out of the blue, Lang is charged as a war criminal by the World Court for his involvement in rendition and torture (sound familiar?) during the Iraq War. The parallels to Tony Blair and George W Bush can not be dismissed but they never get in the way of good story telling.

The movie has interesting characters, wonderful acting, a few surprising laugh out loud lines and plot twists that will keep you guessing. This is one of those films where you must pay attention or you will be off on the drift train and not know what is happening. This is a good omen for films to come down the road in 2010. Bravo.

Side note of interest - since Polanski cannot travel to certain jurisdictions (which gets a comparable shout out in the film) he used the Island of Sylt in the North Sea to replace what is supposed to be Martha's Vineyard and he used Berlin as a stand-in for London.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_AerBW0EcI

Acting: Ewan McGregor as the unnamed Ghost plays his deer caught in the headlights innocence to perfection. Kim Cattrall as Amelia Bly is the weakest character in the film. Olivia Williams as Ruth Lang is wonderful. Pierce Brosnan s Adam Lang is sterling. Timothy Hutton as Sidney Kroll has a small but good role. Tom Wilkinson as Paul Emmett always gives a good performance. Robert Pugh as Richard Rycart is appropriately creepy. James Belushi is unrecognizable as John Maddox. Eli Wallach as the Old Man is indeed an old man.

Trivia:Roman Polanski has not been back to the United States since 1978 when he was convicted of the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl and fled to Europe to escape incarceration. Because he is cannot come to the US, this film was mostly shot in Germany. Polanski was under house arrest in Switzerland during post-production. Roman and his father are Holocaust survivors. His father was Jewish, and his half-Jewish mother (who was murdered in Auschwitz) had been raised as a Roman Catholic. He directed four actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Ruth Gordon, Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and Adrien Brody. Gordon and Brody won Oscars for their performance in one of his movies.

Predilection: I like Roman Polanski's films.

Critters: None

Food: Sandwiches and lots of booze.

Sex Spectrum: None

Blatant Product Placement: Heineken, Samsung and BMW (with a very funny scene that involves a GPS).

Soundtrack: Ominous

Opening Titles: All titles are at the end.

Visual Art: Some nice contemporary art adorns the walls of the home.

Theater Audience: Crowded for a first showing on a Saturday.

Weather: It is dreary, rainy and gray throughout the film.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: 0

Drift Factor: I looked at my watch but it was because I was getting hungry, not bored.

Predictability Level: I was surprised.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Perhaps

Big Screen or Rental: For a Polanski weekend you could rent these fine films:
Knife in the Water, Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, Death and the Maiden, The Pianist and Tess

Length: Two hours.