Movie Reviews - 06/03

'The Ghost Writer' Sleek and Sophisticated

By Susan Granger - Evoking memories of Alfred Hitchcock, this compelling thriller revolves around a nameless professional ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) who is hired to help Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), a former British Prime Minister (think Tony Blair), finish his memoirs.

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Secluded in an isolated, starkly modern house on an island (think Martha's Vineyard) off the Northeastern coast of America, Lang's previous ghostwriter/aide died under mysterious circumstances. When his replacement arrives, amid new accusations of Lang's involvement in war crimes and a possible trial by the International Criminal Court in Geneva, he becomes inexorably drawn into an ominously tangled web of political and sexual intrigue involving Lang's calculating, edgy wife Ruth (Olivia Williams from "An Education") and his devoted aide Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall from "Sex and the City").

Collaborating on the screenplay with novelist Robert Harris ("The Ghost"), 76 year-old Polanski builds an aura of darkly ominous suspense from the opening scene of a ferry docking and a corpse sprawled on a beach and never loosens his grip until the climax.

While his viewpoint remains cynical, accepting greed and corruption as an integral part of the political landscape and focusing on the helplessness of the anonymous Everyman, Polanski, nevertheless, injects several moments of bleak humor, just the way Hitchcock did. The acting is brilliant - from the leads to supporting turns by Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Hutton, Jim Belushi and Eli Wallach. And Polanski's daughter Morgane appears briefly as a hotel receptionist dressed in a colonial costume.

Once acclaimed as one of Hollywood's finest directors for "The Pianist," "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown," Roman Polanski is a Holocaust survivor whose first wife, Sharon Tate, and their unborn child were brutally murdered by Charles Manson's clan. In 1977, Polanski fled the U.S. rather than face sexual assault charges for raping a minor. He was arrested last year in Zurich and awaits extradition at his home in Gstaad, Switzerland.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Ghost Writer" is a sleek, sophisticated 9, an elegant reminder of what a great director Roman Polanski was - and is.

© 2010 Susan Granger - "The Ghost Writer" (Summit Entertainment)

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