Movie review: "The Ghost Writer"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

It's tough to separate "The Ghost Writer" from the headlines elicited by writer-director Roman Polanski over the past year. Tough, but worthwhile, as it's an opportunity to immerse yourself in a throwback political thriller that doesn't rely on car chases to get pulses racing.

Ewan McGregor is a ghostwriter hired to rework the dry political memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). Working from Lang's New England beach house, the writer peruses the politician's seemingly unremarkable manuscript - oddly kept under strict lock-and-key by Lang's stern assistant (Kim Cattrall).

The assignment takes a sharp turn as Lang comes under investigation by an international court. He faces war crimes charges stemming from his conduct in an unnamed war, though it isn't hard to infer here.

"Ghost Writer" would feel right at home among the thrillers of the '70s, including Polanski's own. It's talky and tense. It has more wordplay than gunplay. It's seasoned with a dash of wit and a winking detachment.

The film's tone is in the setting, a New England island (actually a German stand-in) specializing in windswept bleakness and gray cloud cover. It's isolated, claustrophobic and perfect for what Polanski is doing.

Sure, there are flaws. If you don't let yourself get swept up, you'll find holes in the logic and plot. And Cattrall's casting is the weak link in a strong cast, as her Brit accent rises and falls like the tide.

Let all that go. Enjoy a well-acted and expertly executed thriller for grown-ups from someone who knows how to pull that off.

"The Ghost Writer"

Opens Friday

Grade: A-