My best friend suggested we see something other than the big movie of the week and so we headed off to see The Ghost Writer. The reviews were all pretty glowing and it sounded like a curiously delicious film.
The Ghost Writer stars Ewan McGregor as a successful (but unknown) ghost writer who’s given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to complete the memoirs of a recent British Prime Minister (played perfectly by Pierce Brosnan). Of course the opportunity comes with a number of concerns. Chief among them is that the previous ghost writer appears to have suddenly killed himself under extremely questionable circumstances.
The film is loaded with brilliant performers and performances including a few “is that really?” ones. The first is a key executive at the publishing house played by a freshly bald Jim Belushi. We also get to see Timothy Hutton playing the lawyer for the Prime Minister even though we only see him sparingly. Another wonderful, albeit brief, performance is given by the always-reliable Tom Wilkinson during a scene that’s mentally haunting from start to finish. We even get a great scene with the amazing Eli Wallach that had me thinking, “I thought he died years ago.”
The meatiest moments take place between McGregor and the women surrounding the Prime Minister. These include Olivia Williams playing his apparently long-suffering wife and, in the biggest shocker of all, Kim Cattrall playing the PM’s assistant and, with heavy suggestion, a past/possibly current lover.
Cattrall’s performance is shocking for a few reasons. Chief among them is that after years of being type-cast as Samantha in Sex and the City we’re used to seeing her as a vivacious and timeless sexpot. Here she’s so normal and almost plain that it took more than a few scenes to realize it was even her. We also get to see that she has immense talent that’s been wasted with the Samantha character. I must say I was shocked to see her looking this normal and, frankly, old. However, I must also point out that, after I got over the initial shock, her strikingly good looks even at her age managed to shine through without the need for all the flair.
The main story opens up into a full-blown thriller by the end of the movie but be very prepared to wait for it. 90 minutes into the movie we were asking ourselves if the film had any point at all. I was fearing yet another bland movie filled with great acting. Those always leave me feeling cold and bored. Suffice to say that the last 40 minutes makes it all worth it.
Most obviously, much effort appears to have gone into making this feel like a biopic. We’re given the impression that Brosnan’s character is a paper-thin representation of real ex-British PM Tony Blair replete with all the same issues. He’s being hounded as a possible war criminal for supporting illegal torture of terrorists during his tenure and his opponents hate him for his rubber-stamp approval of anything that came out of Washington during his term. Sound familiar?
In the end it all just works and the pay-off is a powerful one that will keep you thinking about it for quite some time afterwards. Could it happen? Did it happen? Will it happen? This movie will get you wondering.