The Ghost Writer - Review

The best thing that can be said about Roman Polanski's pic version of Robert Harris' bestseller "The Ghost" is that auds won't need to read the original novel. With a few exceptions, and necessary tightening, it's pretty much all up on the screen -- page by page of plot, line by line of dialogue -- in one of the most literal adaptations (by the British journo-turned-novelist himself) since the Harry Potter series. Low on sustained tension, and with a weak central perf by Ewan McGregor in the titular role, "The Ghost Writer" looks set for moderate biz at best in Europe, with much briefer haunting of North American salles.

Pic's literalism is also its biggest handicap. Eight years since his last major success, "The Pianist," the 76-old-helmer brings not a jot of his own directorial personality or quirks to a political pulp thriller whose weaknesses (let alone lack of any real action or thrills) are laid bare when brought to the screen is such a workmanlike, anonymous way.

With Polanski himself unable to travel Stateside or to Blighty, the largely New England-set story was entirely shot in Germany -- and sometimes looks like it. Despite the abundance of art direction and props to convince viewers that the locations are in wintry Martha's Vineyard and not Sylt, northern Germany, interiors -- especially of the central house -- look unmistakably modern-Teuton in their clean lines and small details.

Some second-unit work was done in the U.K. and France, and post-production finished while the helmer was under house arrest in Gstaad, Switzerland -- probably the first such instance of remote direction since imprisoned Turkish director Yilmaz Guney in the '70s.

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