The Ghost Writer
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Robert Harris, based on his novel
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, Tom Wilkinson
Released: February, 2010
Running time: 128 minutes

Plot: The ghost (Ewan McGregor) is hired to ghost write the memoirs of former British prime minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) now living in the U.S. Much like Tony Blair, Lang has been accused of being nothing more than a puppet of the American regime. Ghost is replacing another writer who died under unusual circumstances while working on the project. The book is to be completed at Lang’s sleek retreat in Martha’s Vineyard. As work on the memoir begins, Lang is accused of sanctioning the torture of terrorist suspects and hustled off by his handlers as the World Court in The Hague examines the charges.

Now on his own, Ghost follows clues and hunches as he tried to discover the true story of Lang and the truth about the death of his predecessor. The bleak atmosphere, Lang’s wife (Williams-enigmatic and engrossing), his secretary (Cattrall-terribly miscast) and other characters mislead, seduce and abet him on his pursuit. The C.I.A. and U.S. corporations come out looking callous and in cahoots once again.

This is an intelligent movie, but as a thriller, I found it exceptionally thrill-less until the last thirty minutes when Tom Wilkinson and a few surprises breathed some life into it. There is far too much exposition at various points. Brosnan barely has time to sketch out a character–so channel Tony Blair, I guess. I also found McGregor flat as the protagonist. We know little about him—and frankly don’t care.

Looking at a list of Polanski’s films, I remember fondly Repulsion, Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby and Death and the Maiden. I was not nearly as taken with The Pianist, The Ninth Gate and Frantic. I am not sure if any director could make this film work for me because the script lacks tension throughout most of the film.

Now after saying this, I must confess my husband liked this movie quite a bit. So did several discerning friends. I don’t think my revulsion of Polanski influenced my lack of enjoyment but as with Woody Allen’s films, the luster is gone.

Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.