There is a car chase in Roman Polanski’s new thriller, The Ghost Writer. As car chases go, it’s not much of one. It’s over shortly after it begins, and there are no crashes. You have to wonder if it was inserted at the studio’s behest, something to spice up the trailers and lure in Joe and Mary Sixpack. Having made that observation, I’ll say The Ghost Writer is one of the year’s best movies.
That’s because Polanski, that old pro, has delivered a first-class psychological thriller, or, on second thought, a mental thriller. The exiled director gathered a veteran cast, moved filming to Northern Europe (the story takes place on the U.S. east coast), and then assembled the pieces of his puzzle with loving attention to detail.
Ewan McGregor is a perfect everyman, an innocuous (and unnamed, in the story) ghost writer surrounded by perilous people and perilous places. McGregor’s writer finds himself embroiled in not just a political whodunit, but also a “whatdunit,” and Polanski’s cast members — Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson, and Robert Pugh, in particular — all ooze menace.
The movie is a tad too long and it could do with one or two less red herrings, but it’s something all too rare at today’s cineplex: a thriller that doesn’t need any damn car chases. Grade B+
Director: Roman Polanski Cast: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, Eli Wallach, James Belushi, Timothy Hutton, Tom Wilkinson Release: 2010
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