There are plenty of political thrillers thrown at us each year, and despite being directed by Oscar winner Roman Polanski, “The Ghost Writer” has little to distinguish itself from the countless other entries in the genre. Thanks to solid direction and capable acting, it definitely ranks among the upper echelon of similar movies. Yet at the same time, there’s nothing that jumps out and makes you think “now THAT is the work of an Academy Award winning director.” (It’s almost impossible to top “The Pianist,” and I don’t expect Polanski to do so.)
It’s your prototypical tale of intrigue involving the usual chain of events: suspicion, investigation, and ultimately startling discovery. Ewan McGregor’s Ghost takes on the lofty task of adapting the verbose memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) after the first ghost writer drowns. The Ghost senses that there might be foul play afoot in the unforeseen disappearance, and sure enough, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. He stumbles upon a web of deceit and betrayal where allegiance and alliance are never certain.
There are some nice twists in the end, but the build-up can get a little tedious at times. Nothing is ever boring because it is a Polanski movie, after all. There is often an occasion where the movie thinks it’s a lot better than it is. Maybe it’s this Polanski-instilled confidence that elevates the movie a few rungs above mediocre. He does a good job of escalating the tension slowly over the movie until the end when it could be cut with a knife. The tautness is also due in large part to Alexandre Desplat’s brassy score, sometimes quirky but always blaring.
In short, “The Ghost Writer” doesn’t quite measure up to the Roman Polanski standard. But not quite measuring up to his standard is exceeding a whole lot of other ones. B+ /