Ghost writers, like the hero of the Polanski‘s film wonderfully acted by Ewan McGregor are people with no past, no family, no ambitions, and no identity – sometimes they even do not have a name, or if they have one nobody knows it. They often write the books signed by the important men and women of this world, they give shape to their ideas and memories, and sometimes they learn more about the powerful of the world then they should. This is when they can get into trouble or even in mortal danger. It’s easy, as they have no past, no family, no ambitions, no identity, and sometimes no name.

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With these premises The Ghost Writer plays as a political thriller located in Hitchcock territory. Into some other director’s hands the story could have been easily over-politicized as the ex-British Prime Minister Lang (Pierce Brosnan) is a very transparent replica of Tony Blair, with a pitch of romance maybe as wife Ruth Lang is acted with such sensitivity and mystery by Olivia Williams that she could become the turning point of the drama. Polanski does however something more here beyond creating the most hitchcockian atmosphere in a movie since Hitchcock passed away – he inserts in the film his personal dramas and fears. The ex-Prime Minister is not only a vilified politician in danger to be indicted by the Hague Tribunal, he is also an exile who cannot return to his own country as Polanski is for many years (and no judgment is being made or excuse presented about him being guilty or not). The fascination of Polanski with water is also present, and we can follow and remember the evolution of the theme in the director’s imaginary, from the sunny reflections in Knife in the Water through the grotesque tones in Cul de Sac or Pirates until the dark tones here – water is always a threat, a menacing presence. The scenes on winterly Martha’s Vineyard island are nothing less than memorable, you can feel the wind and the loneliness crossing the screen.

(video source hollywoodstreams)

Not everything is perfect, and one can dispute whether the resolution of the plot is a little bit too smart, or whether the final scene is a little too cinematographically beautiful to be true. Maybe so – yet this is one of the best political thrillers I have seen, just because it never puts too much pressure neither on the political, not on the thriller aspects, but on human feelings and on the fragility of the character of the Ghost. Well acted and beautifully filmed, it shows the hand of a director at the pick of his creative maturity. Putting aside the controversy related to his personal life and situation, as a film fan I really hope that this is not his last movie.