'The Ghost Writer,' Roman Polanski's adaptation of Robert Harris' bestseller 'The Ghost,' is a political thriller about a hack writer (Ewan McGregor) hired to finish "ghosting" the memoirs of former British prime minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan.)

What seems like a plum gig becomes less so when Lang is accused of war crimes by a former cabinet member and McGregor's character finds out that his predecessor -- the ghost who started the memoir job -- died under mysterious circumstances.

Much of the hubbub surrounding the movie concerns the legendary director's own predicament (he's currently under house arrest in Switzerland for having sex with a minor in 1977) and its parallels to that of the disgraced prime minister. Adding to the intrigue is the unmistakable resemblance between Brosnan's character and actual former PM Tony Blair.

Critics are generally quite impressed with 'The Ghost Writer,' citing Polanski's expert manipulation of mood and strong performances by the cast (which also includes Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Hutton), though a few found the film uneven and less than inspiring. Here's a sampling of the reviews: 'The Ghost Writer,' Roman Polanski's adaptation of Robert Harris' bestseller 'The Ghost,' is a political thriller about a hack writer (Ewan McGregor) hired to finish "ghosting" the memoirs of former British prime minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan.)

What seems like a plum gig becomes less so when Lang is accused of war crimes by a former cabinet member and McGregor's character finds out that his predecessor -- the ghost who started the memoir job -- died under mysterious circumstances.

Much of the hubbub surrounding the movie concerns the legendary director's own predicament (he's currently under house arrest in Switzerland for having sex with a minor in 1977) and its parallels to that of the disgraced prime minister. Adding to the intrigue is the unmistakable resemblance between Brosnan's character and actual former PM Tony Blair.

Critics are generally quite impressed with 'The Ghost Writer,' citing Polanski's expert manipulation of mood and strong performances by the cast (which also includes Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Hutton), though a few found the film uneven and less than inspiring. Here's a sampling of the reviews:

The Hollywood Reporter: "McGregor hits all the right notes as a man with a conscience and sense of professional pride who is in way over his head. He's smart but not too smart and doesn't always make the right moves. Brosnan gets the politician's arrogance perfectly as well as the duplicity lurking so close under the surface. Williams nearly steals the show as the wily, controlling wife that senses her control is at last slipping."

Rolling Stone: "'The Ghost Writer,' based on the Robert Harris bestseller, shows Polanski in brilliant command of a political thriller that ties you up in knots of tension while zinging politics and showbiz like two sides of the same toxic coin."

Variety: "All the ingredients are here for a rip-roaring political thriller, with corruption in the highest places and a cast of sexy and/or suspicious characters, but for the first hour there's little accumulated atmosphere or any sense of a bigger story hiding in the wings. Polanski simply transfers Harris' undistinguished prose direct to the screen and, though the pace picks up marginally in the second half, there's little wow factor in the revelations as they appear."

'The Ghost Writer' trailer


Village Voice
: "What actually happens is less important than the barest glimmers of that old Polanski magic: ambient paranoia (aided by the 'Cul-de-Sac'–y land's-end setting) and uneven power struggles (one involving a very crafty Tom Wilkinson as an old Lang associate). The wrap-up is one strange, ah-fuggit mess, on top of Google-powered plot moves, but Polanski's work therapy could have been a lot worse."

Time Out New York: "We're so used to amped-up white-knucklers that the controlled approach of a filmmaker like Roman Polanski is immediately seductive. The director responsible for such mainstays as 'Chinatown' and 'Rosemary's Baby' (and of course his own real-life news cycle) turns Robert Harris's political potboiler involving a ghostwriter (McGregor), a former British prime minister (Brosnan) and an isolated island home into a slow-burn near-masterpiece."

Entertainment Weekly: "The disturbing information can't be ignored. But neither ought it distract viewers from a well-made, sleekly retaliatory, pleasurably paranoid tale in praise of enterprising (and also brave) investigative journalists and in condemnation of political skulduggery in general and right-wing Anglo-American collusion in particular."

New York Observer: "The 76-year-old director was in the midst of postproduction when he was apprehended by Swiss police in 2009, and had to finish the film while under house arrest. It's impossible to know whether this affected the finished product (based on the Robert Harris best seller), which has moments of heart-pounding suspense and brief glimmers of greatness, thanks to fine performances by Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams, but overall feels uneven, sprawling and strangely incomplete."

The Guardian
: "Polanski keeps the narrative engine ticking over with a downbeat but compelling throb. This is his most purely enjoyable picture for years, a Hitchcockian nightmare with a persistent, stomach-turning sense of disquiet, brought off with confidence and dash."

Will you see 'The Ghost Writer' despite the charges against Roman Polanski?
Yes64 (92.8%)
No5 (7.2%)
CATEGORIES Reviews