THE GHOST WRITER:

Taking a job that got the person you’re replacing killed doesn’t seem like a good career move to me. But I guess the unnamed title character (Ewan McGregor) couldn’t resist the hefty largesse offered by a charismatic, former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan), accused of sanctioning the kidnapping and torture of suspected terrorists, to pen his memoirs. The illogical screenplay by Robert Harris and co-writer/director/accused child rapist Roman Polanski (See sidebar below.) dictates that McGregor (BIG FISH) will “sleep with the fishes” if he does his work too well. This makes you wonder why Brosnan’s (THE MATADOR) Tony Blair-like persona would want anybody digging into his background in the first place. They both should have tried to find a passable British accent for miscast yank Kim Cattrall (SEX AND THE CITY) as an aide who may or may not be having an affair with the ex-P.M. The movie attempts a Hitchcockian tone with a build-up of suspense aided by Alexandre Desplat’s musical score reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann’s (NORTH BY NORTHWEST, PSYCHO) classic pieces. The plot grinds along without ever really taking off or establishing a needed momentum as it moves toward a conclusion that requires a much better set-up than the one it gets. That makes this political thriller not so thrilling even though the note-passing sequence near the end illustrates Polanski’s mastery of technique. However, that doesn’t compensate for a film where the revelation of a conspiracy involving corporations and governments with hidden agendas is likely to elicit a reaction of “duh” from cynical audiences who learned long ago that such entities are capable of anything. CRITIC’S GRADE: C+

EXCELLENT MOVIES DIRECTED BY ROMAN POLANSKI: KNIFE IN THE WATER (1962), REPULSION (1965), CUL-DE-SAC (1966), THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS or: PARDON ME, BUT YOUR TEETH ARE IN MY NECK (1967), ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968), MACBETH (1971), CHINATOWN (1974), THE TENANT (1976), TESS (1979), DEATH AND THE MAIDEN (1994), THE PIANIST (2002)*

*Won Academy Award for Best Director