Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer” reminded me of “The Parallax View,” a 1974 film starring Warren Beatty as a reporter investigating the assassination of a U.S. Senator. The stories and themes are similar, and both movies have as their leading character a writer (in “Ghost Writer,” Ewan McGregor) who is in way over his head against forces that he can’t even begin to understand. Both films portray a political system governed by shady, behind the scenes characters and shady, charismatic in-front-of-the-cameras characters whose motivation is never quite clear.
Ewan McGregor is quite good as the writer who seems slightly befuddled and/or one step behind for the entire movie. Pierce Brosnan, an actor who I’m not sure has gotten the respect he deserves over the course of his career, is even better as the former Prime Minister who is the subject of his book. Olivia Williams also turns in a strong performance as a political wife who is anything but meek and accepting. As important as the cast are the settings – Brosnan lives in a bleak, desolate home that is hard on the beach, where it is always stormy. In nicer weather, one might be tempted to call it a castle. In this movie, it feels more like a haunted house.
This is not a masterpiece along the lines of “Chinatown,” but it is an expertly-made film that never fails to engage the senses and the intellect.