The Ghost Writer (2010) – Roman Polanski (Friday’s Finest)

The Ghost Writer

When we started to bunker down in our respective COVID-19 shelters I went through my DVD archives and chose some movies I wanted to revisit. One such movie The Ghost Writer which I just finished watching features today in Friday’s-finest. I guess I have seen The Ghost Writer about six times in total and each time I have found it as engrossing and suspenseful viewing as my previous encounter. Director Roman Polanski is no slouch when it comes to making such austere and suspenseful thrillers – Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and Repulsion to name just a few. But The Ghost Writer features here because like most other films I like to write about, it seems an ‘underappreciated’ modern classic, perhaps not so much in critical circles, but in the general audience arena.

IMDB Storyline: An unremarkable ghost-writer has landed a lucrative contract to redact the memoirs of Adam Lang, the former UK Prime Minister. After dominating British politics for years, Lang is campaigning for his foundation with his wife in the USA. He lives on an island, in luxurious, isolated premises complete with a security detail and a secretarial staff. Soon, Adam Lang gets embroiled in a major scandal with international ramifications that reveals how far he was ready to go in order to nurture UK’s “special relationship” with the USA. But before this controversy has started, before even he has closed the deal with the publisher, the ghost-writer gets unmistakable signs that the turgid draft he is tasked to put into shape inexplicably constitutes highly sensitive material.

‘Political thriller’ is possibly my favorite movie genre and that might have something to do with my having graduated with a ‘Political science’ major and serving in the Australian military.  So The Ghost Writer tickles all my fancies as far as subject matter and context. Pierce Brosnan who normally doesn’t rub off well to me as an actor is perfectly cast to play the character of Adam Lang, and has echoes of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.  Originally Nicolas Cage and Tilda Swinton were cast in the principal roles, but due to postponement of production Ewan McGregor and Olivia Williams replaced them respectively. Olivia Williams who plays Adam Lang’s wife is intoxicating in every scene she appears and her unforgettable reaction at the end of the film is about as good as it gets in terms of climax moment – acting. Kudos also to McGregor who plays the apathetic individual within a larger society to great effect.

The biggest takeway from the film is Polanksi being in so command of his craft. Every image carefully composed, and every moment of information tightly plotted. Polanski’s world view is so thoroughly and crisply represented through this visual style and the eerily atmospheric soundtrack. Interestingly Germany stood in for London and Martha’s Vineyard due to Polanski’s inability to legally travel to those places, as Polanski had fled the U.S. in 1978. A few brief exterior shots for driving scenes were shot by a second unit in Massachusetts, without Polanski or the actors. The film premiered at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival on 12 February 2010 where Polanski won best director.

IMDB Movie trivia:

  • Lang’s beach house set was built entirely in a studio. The Cape Cod views through the windows were the result of greenscreens.
  • Was originally filmed as an R-rated thriller, but upon its purchase for U.S. distribution, it needed to be cut down to PG-13, to ensure a wider audience. This was done by cutting out eighteen “f” words, three “c” words, and also some graphic sexual dialogue, as well as trimming some CGI blood spray during a death scene.
  • The Ghost (Ewan McGregor) is given a manuscript by Lang’s attorney. In the taxi, he checks the number of pages: six hundred twenty-four. Tony Blair’s memoirs “A Journey”, published in September 2010, also has six hundred twenty-four pages.
  • Ewan McGregor was considered to replace Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, but declined due to fears of typecasting.
  • The hotel receptionist is portrayed by Morgane Polanski, daughter of director Roman Polanski.

1. Wikipedia – The Ghost Writer (film)
2. The Ghost Writer (2010) – IMDB

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Movies and TV
19 comments on “The Ghost Writer (2010) – Roman Polanski (Friday’s Finest)
  1. Clever Girl says:

    Great, gonna check it out!

  2. badfinger20 says:

    Never seen this one…I’ve only seen two of his movies…Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown. Sounds pretty good.

  3. Where have Im been? I’ll get on this one.

  4. selizabryangmailcom says:

    Wow, I had no idea. I never hear about Polanski except when he travels somewhere and we try to detain him and/or extradite him back here–don’t recall hearing about this movie at all.
    It sounds good!
    I think it’s almost criminal how the U.S. won’t let it go, the under-age girl event from the ’70s. Not saying he’s innocent, but who was back then? Not saying that would excuse him either. But the girl herself–a woman now–has said let it go! But the U.S. will not. It must be a point of pride or something, but it’s so hypocritical and such wasted time, energy, and resources whenever they go after him.

    • I must admit I remain blissfully ignorant of the controversies, innuendo and or charges. It’s a bit like the public furor surrounding Woody Allen’s personal life – it just doesn’t interest me. If they are guilty, then that’s a matter for the law. I just admire their art (output) and judge them by that.

  5. selizabryangmailcom says:

    That’s smart. We can never ever know what people are really like and it’s not our business (unless they’re cannibals, of course) 🙂 (Modern cannibals) 🙂 🙂

    • Many of these egocentric genius types tend to have some sketchy backgrounds, but I also don’t want to condone any misdemeanors that may have been committed and that’s that. lol
      How are you guys holding up in Cali?

  6. selizabryangmailcom says:

    Yeah, I get what you’re saying–don’t wanna give folks a free pass. But considering what’s going on here today–the bald-faced criminality, lies, deceit, terrible decisions–Trump pardoning soldiers accused of war crimes and atrocities overseas…I don’t know. Hard to compare. We have politicians here who looked the other way while coaches sexually abused students. We have politicians sitting in bathrooms about to take part in glory hole activities, getting caught, denying everything, AND voting against gay rights to top it all off! None of them ever seem to come to justice, but Polanski’s still wanted? Just the hypocrisy is sickening, you know?

    Anyway, sorry about that. I’m exhausted from work this week. But we’re still doing okay here and feeling good. I hope you are too!
    My dad went out, on the other hand, to an eye appointment today. I was like, “Dad…are you KIDDING me?” I still can’t believe he did that. Oh, well.
    What are you gonna do?!
    Are you hanging in there or going crazy? 🙂

    • Wow Stacey! How did we arrive at glory holes from a simple movie review?! Jesus lol I see the connection with war atrocities since the PM is accused of that in the movie. I understand your point about hypocracies and Polanski, well kinda. One thing’s for certain the US certainly got a raw deal in terms of leadership to lead them through the Pandemic.

      I was watching a Four Corners investigation about the Australian Government’s response to the crises and the economic fallout this is having and I couldn’t help but notice the difference in the quality of Political leadership Australia offered. It’s professional, transparent and unified as opposed to the Trump’s administration’s response which is full of ambiguity and innuendo. I don’t want to dish on your country, but politically it seems broken and the crises is exposing it to the rest of the world. It’s really sad.

      We are doing well here Stacey. It’s bit of a case of Groundhog day. I don’t agree with the more Draconian lockdown we have here as opposed to Australia or even Sweden for that matter, but to give the authorities here credit they recognise the health system is more delicate than it is in 1st world countries and at least they seem unified in their response. But the economic situation is also especially weak as the depreciation in oil drives the dagger deeper into the heart of the economy, so for that reason I am rather concerned of where this extended quarantining will lead us here.

  7. selizabryangmailcom says:

    Yeah, sorry about that–from Ghost Writer to glory holes. What’s the nexus, for the love of God?! There isn’t one, lol !!!

    Yeah, be thankful for your sane leadership vs. the insanity over here. As for where we all end up afterwards…the deep holes punched into the economy….I don’t know. It does seem like we could end up almost past the point of no return. Or at least terrible struggling to get anywhere close to where things were. I hope I’m wrong. On the plus side, though…..everyone’s freaking out about how clean the air is without millions of cars driving around and chimneys pouring filth into the sky………!

    • Hi Stacey, Yeh, I read in the NYT that during the height of the health crises in the US that other other hospital admissions for strokes and heart attacks were down by 60% across the country. That is a very strange occurrence, but it makes you wonder.
      You mentioned ‘passing the point of no return’. That’s what concerns me as well. It seems from here on in, we will be jumping from one crises to the next trying just to survive, meanwhile the tensions between China and the US is escalating rapidly and globalisation is all but dead and nation states are shoring up their borders.

      In Bogota with the cleaner air, you now can see snowcapped volcanoes 100’s of kilometers away. It’s extraordinary the difference here. I’ll leave you on that happier note lol

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