There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Every rumor or news report can be twisted and altered to work in favor of those in the public eye. If anything, being discussed let’s people know you’re still worth mentioning. And more appropriately the publicity creates an interest that in turn can be financially rewarding. Roman Polanski has been scrutinized in the public forum for personal allegations for the last year, which really brought the 76-year-old film director back into the spotlight. He presumably did not want the negative attention, but it doesn’t hurt in making his name relevant across the board, especially when his new film The Ghost Writer comes after a lengthy absence. All personal and court proceedings aside, Polanski’s new work highlights a master filmmaker at ease with his craft, recalling past film and storytelling techniques.
After a ghostwriter working on the manuscript for Britain’s previous prime minister, mysteriously washes up dead on a Martha’s Vineyard beach, a new writer must be brought in to finish the work. The new ghost (Ewan McGregor) is not too keen on the idea, but is persuaded by his agent and a handsome payment for a month’s worth of time spent finishing the book. He is hurriedly flown and ferried to former prime minister Adam Lang’s (Pierce Brosnan) beach house on Martha’s Vineyard. The scenario quickly changes as we learn that Lang, a smooth and sophisticated gentleman is being investigated for war crimes and suddenly is thrown into the public eye. His former allies are professing his guilt across the media and with the world captivated by the frenzy, the new ghost is finding his new job quite dangerous.
The world created by Polanski is wrought into a frame of deception and secrecy, where everyone could be a threat to safety. We are thrown into a gray, rainy and dismal environment, which is reflected in the beach house, a top-notch security facility with menacing bodyguards and associates that bear a certain mystery. Lang’s wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams) is highly involved in all political matters, becoming a confidant for the new ghost. The tension in the media is palpable in the beach house, as Lang’s aide Amelia (Kim Cattrall) deals with not only publicity moves but also the verbal attacks of Ruth, as it is blatantly apparent that she is also the mistress. While sorting through all the political drama unfolding in front of him and attempting to complete the manuscript, the ghost uncovers information that may have led to his predecessor’s demise.
Polanski does a fantastic job at drawing out the tension throughout the story. Not to give away too much, but the filmmaker doesn’t rely on fast pace storytelling or informative scenes. Instead he makes the viewer feel like the ghost, slowly enveloping them into a satisfying climax. It’s worth noting that the film is also reflective of Polanski’s personal situation; a man accused of crimes that lead to home seclusion in a foreign country. You won’t be on the edge of your seat, but The Ghost Writer is an entertaining mystery done with great precision.
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