“The Ghost Writer” – bring a pillow (for either sleeping or smothering purposes)

Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor in Polanski's not-so-thrilling thriller, "The Ghost Writer."
Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor in Polanski's not-so-thrilling thriller, "The Ghost Writer."

Rated PG13

Directed by Roman Polanski

Starring Ewan McGregor, Kim Catrall, Olivia Williams, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Hutton

Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 2.5/5

Word of Warning: I’d recommend being well caffeinated before viewing this one.

Say what you like about Roman Polanski, but the guy does know the craft of movie making. However, I think this one could have been so much better. Robert Harris, who wrote the book “The Ghost,” adapted the screenplay with Polanski’s assistance, which tells me the book is probably a slow read.

The movie is about a British ghostwriter who has been asked to write a book with a former British Prime Minister named Adam Lang. This new ghostwriter is a replacement because the former ghostwriter died in an apparent drowning accident.

The former writer had nearly completed the manuscript, which is now under lock and key. The new ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) has the task of taking the original manuscript and completing the man’s work. Throughout the two-hour movie McGregor’s character is never given a name, he is simply “The Ghost.”

Mr. Lang, his wife and their small staff are currently living on an island on the Eastern seaboard of the United States and the ghostwriter is sequester to the island in order to complete the book.

After the writer arrives, things change dramatically when Mr. Lang is accused by a former cabinet member of authorizing the illegal seizure of suspected terrorists to be handed over to the CIA for torture – a war crime. What was a simple autobiography by a former Prime Minister now becomes somewhat more significant.

The ghostwriter is unwittingly caught up in the drama now surrounding the former Prime Minister, and as the writer gets more heavily involved he begins to question if the death of his predecessor was just an accident or something much more sinister.

Because of Polanski’s outstanding warrant stemming from a 1977 sexual assault against a minor, “The Ghost Writer” was filmed in Germany. The film is dubbed a “thriller,” but quite frankly there is nothing thrilling about it.

The first half drags and although it does pick up towards the end, it lacks a punch. Perhaps it was the subject matter, I don’t get all worked up about torture – the idea that all this drama was over the extradition of suspected terrorists for torture by the United States just wasn’t much of a compelling storyline.

In addition, though well crafted, “The Ghost Writer” was painfully slow. I’ve stated this before and I’ll state it again, I’m not opposed to slow, thoughtful films. Some of my favorites would fall into this category, but I felt like this movie didn’t get started until it was nearly over.

Yes, I get it. The movie is about something bigger, about how we are all ghosts in a play that goes on without us ever knowing who is directing the various scenes, but “The Ghost Writer” just didn’t do it for me. If you still want to see it I’d recommend  waiting for the DVD.

**Also appearing in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor.

Note: This film will start on April 2, at Lyric Cinema Cafe in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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