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Film Details

Directed by: Roman Polanski

Produced: 2009

Countries & Regions: Germany, United States

DVD Details

Certificate: 15

Length: 123 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 20 September 2010

Cat No: OPTD1817

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Languages(s): English
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The Ghost

Cast: James Belushi , Tom Wilkinson , Ewan McGregor , Timothy Hutton , Kim Cattrall , Olivia Williams , Pierce Brosnan , Eli Wallach , Jon Bernthal , Tim Preece , Anna Botting , Yvonne Tomlinson

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Roman Polanski directs this political thriller based on the novel by Robert Harris. Ewan McGregor plays a ghost-writer who is hired to... Read More

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Roman Polanski directs this political thriller based on the novel by Robert Harris. Ewan McGregor plays a ghost-writer who is hired to work on the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) following the mysterious demise of his previous collaborator. Taken to a luxury mansion on an island off the American East Coast to begin work on the book, he is introduced to the unsettlingly mercurial Prime Minister, his wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) and his personal assistant Amelia (Kim Cattrall). When Lang subsequently becomes embroiled in a major international scandal that reveals just how far he was prepared to go in order to nurture UK’s ’special relationship’ with the USA, the ghost-writer finds himself caught up in a deadly web of secrets and lies.

Since The Bourne Identity (2002), the thriller genre has become overpopulated with humourless assassins, dizzying rooftop chases, lightening-fast pugilism, and incredibly shaky camerawork. Leave it to an old pro like Roman Polanski to deliver one of the most stylish and satisfying thrillers of recent years. 



Based on Robert Harris's 2007 best seller, The Ghost stars Ewan McGregor as an (appropriately anonymous) ghost writer who is offered an astronomical sum to re-write the autobiography of ex-Prime Minister Adam Lang (a sickly suave Pierce Brosnan). The catch? The Ghost's predecessor died under strange circumstances, and there may be more in Lang's rambling memoirs than meets the eye. 



The Ghost is spirited away to a remote island retreat, where Lang's tome is kept under lock and key by his personal assistant, Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall). But when ex-Foreign Secretary Richard Rycart (Robert Pugh, channelling the late Robin Cook) initiates war crimes charges against his former boss, press and protesters close in. The Ghost suddenly finds himself trapped with Lang's wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams), for company, and a deadly mystery locked within the document's pages. 



Like Alfred Hitchcock, Polanski knows that the height of tension can be achieved simply by leaving two people alone in a room, and most of the film's action is confined to the stark modernist cage of Lang's mansion in Martha's Vineyard. The nearest we get to a car chase involves some sharp driving around a ferry terminal - certainly nothing you'd lose your licence over. There are frequent nods to the Master of Suspense - including a closeup shot which tracks a folded note as it passes, hand-to-hand, through a crowd - but this classy, claustrophobic piece is vintage Polanski, and Alexandre Desplat's score evokes the taut thrillers of the 70s. 



McGregor plays The Ghost as something between an unscrupulous hack, a likeable rogue and an out-of-his-depth everyman. Cattrall and Williams are perfectly cast as the two very different women in Lang's life, whilst Brosnan tears into the role of the larger-than-life ex-PM with relish. 



For many, the prospect of seeing a Blair-like figure facing charges at the Hague will be a dream come true, and many of the crimes levelled against Lang, which include collusion with extraordinary rendition and torture, are torn straight from recent headlines. But despite these deliberate parallels, Polanski steers well clear of polemics or point-scoring, and never lets the political themes of the story overwhelm its human aspects. Indeed, it's not hard to find similarities between Lang's predicament and that of Polanski himself - a man who, as a result of past crimes, now finds himself trapped in a gilded cage. 



Whatever the rights and wrongs of Polanski's case, we can all be grateful his particular cage had the necessary facilities to allow him to complete post-production on this assured and enjoyable piece of film-making.

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