The Ghost Writer raises significant issues

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Two recent events, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s testimony in the UK’s Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq invasion and director Roman Polanski’s arrest on a 1970s rape charge, create an excited curiosity about The Ghost Writer, based on Robert Harris’ novel and completed by Polanski in prison. The film, while not among Polanski’s best, contains his familiar themes: an innocent’s descent into evil and identification with the fugitive by a director who fled the Nazis as a child and U.S. law as an adult. The story concerns a writer (Ewan McGregor), called The Ghost, hired to complete the autobiography of Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), a charismatic former British P.M. based on Blair. The previous ghostwriter has died mysteriously in a ferry accident near Martha’s Vineyard (for which Germany here stands in), where The Ghost travels to work with Lang, his shrewd wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams) and Lang’s assistant/mistress, Amelia (Kim Cattrall). Events intensify as the International Criminal Court charges Lang with war crimes for authorizing “torture flights,” and The Ghost discovers explosive information about Lang’s political origins. The story raises important issues, but remains firmly at the shallow end and unfolds in a dullish manner that matches the film’s muted color palette. Nonetheless, the acting is mostly excellent and the production values impeccable, with beautifully composed shots, breathtaking coastal atmospherics, and a lovely, understated Alexandre Desplat score. Cedar Lee Theatre. ***

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