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Thursday, April 15, 2010 04:04 am

Polanski’s political mystery

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Director Roman Polanski is in top form with his adaptation of the Robert Harris novel, The Ghost Writer, a riveting political thriller that’s a thinly veiled broadside of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s support of the United States’ Iraqi conflict. Ewan McGregor stars as a ghost writer who’s hired to help former British Prime Minister Adam Lange (Pierce Brosnan) finish his memoirs. Eager for the quarter-million-dollar paycheck, he ignores the fact that his predecessor died under mysterious circumstances and jumps head first into the project. He interviews his subject as his legacy is threatened when he’s charged with war crimes.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in Polanski’s taut mystery, which unfolds as a political conspiracy thriller that entertains as it indicts. Intelligent and executed with confidence, the film avoids playing games with its audience, instead laying out all of the plot’s details before us in such a subtle way that we don’t realize the solution to its intricate riddle is right before our eyes. Polanski doesn’t use red herrings to keep us guessing. Instead he employs subtle misdirection as he builds the intrigue and our interest as the writer uncovers things that are better left buried.

There’s a reason we never learn the name of McGregor’s character. Matters of identity, both personal and national, are at the forefront of the film’s theme. McGregor and Brosnan have never been better. It’s obvious these actors, as well as the supporting cast, including Olivia Williams and Kim Cattrall, enjoy tackling such intelligent material. In the end, this gripping, smart and ultimately chilling film ends up being a top-notch mystery with style and substance to spare that should not be missed by fans of Hitchcock or sharp-edged cinema.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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