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The Ghost Writer

Year: 2010
Production Co: RP Productions
Director: Roman Polanski
Writer: Roman Polanski/Robert Harris
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattral, Jim Belushi, Timothy Hutton

What surprised me most about this film were the problems that were all too visible. There weren't a lot of them, but I think Polanski's sense of mystique inflated my expectation of the film's quality. It's still a mystery to me how they got through, because both The Piano and Rosemary's Baby were accomplished cinema.

It's the story of an unnamed middle-tier writer (McGregor) who gets the job of a lifetime, even if it doesn't feel like it. The memoirist of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Brosnan) has died under mysterious circumstances at the windswept American beach retreat where Lang and his staff are living, and the publisher wants it turned around quickly and quietly – and they're prepared to pay big.

As soon as he arrives and gets to know Lang's painfully efficient head of staff (Cattrall) and his heavy-lidded, ice queen wife (Williams), things turn pear shaped when Lang is charged with war crimes for his complicity in the extradition and torture of terror suspects.

While he's away fighting the PR battle, the writer digs around and unearths a plot that makes it seem Lang was a CIA plant before his political career even took off. I won't ruin the twist, but Polanski has a strong sense of the 'what-happens-next' approach to storytelling and it is indeed thrilling if a little confusing at times.

But Brosnan's acting is at times terrible, as if he doesn't have any practice losing his temper, and Cattrall is only passable as a straight-backed, straight-laced Englishwoman. Only McGregor and Williams emerge with dignity intact. And, honestly, if you find out someone's been a CIA assassin for years and will likely get you killed if they realise you're onto them, you don't hang around a party passing notes to them telling them they've been sprung, you run for your fucking life. At that point, the whole thing lost me.

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