Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Ghost Writer (2010) Blogathon Contribution

When Dorian over at Tales of the Easily Distracted announced her upcoming Blogathon titled The Best Hitchcock Movies That Hitchcock Never Made, I immediately thought of a very good Mystery/Thriller that came out in 2010, which also happens to be my favorite film that year. While it was directed by Roman Polanski it has that "Hitchcock feel" which any fan of Hitch's work would find highly enjoyable.

If you haven't had the opportunity to see it I hope this overview will encourage you to do so and don't worry. I won't give away the ending or any plot twists that would ruin seeing it for the first time. No, instead I'll just do my best to point out all of the things that reminded me of the genius behind some of the most iconic Mystery/Thrillers, Alfred Hitchcock.

Roman Polanski has put together something very special and every detail is spot on with just how we would like a modern day Hitchcock film to be. The musical score, the cinematography, the characters all add to what I feel is a great success and a glorious homage to the master of suspense.

The Ghost Writer
Ewan McGregor as The Ghost
Timothy Hutton as Sidney Kroll
Jon Bernthal as Rick Ricardelli
Tim Preece as Roy
James Belushi as John Maddow
Anna Botting as SKYTV Newsreader
Olivia Williams as Ruth Lang
Pierce Brosnan as Adam Lang
Kim Cattrall as Amelia Bly
Tim Faraday as Barry
DIRECTOR: Roman Polanski
WRITERS: Robert Harris and Roman Polanski

 The film opens to a ferry mooring at a dark and isolated port. I have a feeling we're going to see a lot of dreary and dark.

I'm reminded of Hitchcock's "Marnie" and this ship that appears to be headed down the street. It looked so odd in that scene that even Marnie with all she had going on in that head of hers couldn't stop staring it.

 Like Hitch, Polanski starts to focus on things at a distance, note that they're important to the story like this SUV that's been abandoned on the ferry.

 We don't get too close to it but I have a feeling we'll see it again.

 The next morning we see a body washing up on shore. (at a distance of course!)

You know who else liked bodies floating in water? Uh Huh, that would be Hitch and "Marnie"

 It's time to meet up with one of our main characters, known only as The Ghost Writer. He's been offered a job writing the memoirs of the former Prime Minister of Britain.

 Arriving for a meeting with the publishers he's stopped for a body pat, full on security check. Are there really that many armed robbers out there looking to steal first drafts of books?

 The pitch! Of course we find out that the initial Ghost Writer just happens to be the body that's floated up on shore somewhere in Massachusetts.

These three try to make it seem like a dead writer isn't all that unusual, has nothing to do with writing the memoirs for a high ranking political figure. (I'm sure he was killed while coming up on a couple of guys trying to steal crab pots. Getting prime ingredients for New England clam chowder can be dangerous business!)

 Rainy London and a very nice upscale neighborhood. Was hoping we would get a quick cameo of Polanski in the back of a cab.

 Our Ghost Writer accepts the job for $250,000 which he probably should invest a little of into a security detail. He's also given a draft for another book to look over on his way out of the meeting. 

 Which causes him to get mugged immediately. Naive leading men is very Hitch!

That book is long gone!

Fast getaway vehicles are also very Hitch! Who needs wheels?

 While waiting at the airport bar the Ghost Writer gets his first glimpse of why the memoirs of the PM might be worth killing over.

 He's reassured that he's in no danger and reminded of the $250,000 payday. (A bald James Belushi is pretty intimidating. Unless you keep picturing him in "Curly Sue" God, what a stinker that was!)

 To reiterate what kind of mess the PM is involved in we're informed that there's torture, missing Iraqi troops and cover ups. (Who got the short straw in being the waterboardee in that reenactment?)

 The flight attendants are even very 1960's. (I wasn't aware that Twiggy was still working.)

 It's becoming more and more apparent why PM Lang is hiding out in the United States. (I hope he's at Dick Cheney's Wyoming hunting lodge. That would be fun!)

 Things aren't any cheerier outside the plane. We get ominous music as the plane looks like it's headed into a triangle of disaster. Nice shot Polanski! 

 As the Ghost Writer takes the ferry out to the PM's compound somewhere in upstate New York we're reminded of how treacherous things are, could be for our naive but now suspicious writer. This shot reminds me of something I've seen before. Hmmmm!

A little film titled "Lifeboat" Don't row towards Cape Cod. That place is suspect!

 As we arrive at the compound we realize quickly that even ex PM's who have been exiled are provided security.

 Hiding out at a very isolated but modern home. (I'm a huge fan of modern art but I'm not feeling that sculpture at all. I hope a plane crashes into it or it's attacked by birds.)

It reminds me of this isolated but modern home featured in "North by Northwest"

 We're greeted by our perky assistant to the PM who's trying to pull off a very bad British accent. (Okay, perhaps perky is pushing it. Maybe Kim Cattrall from 1990 was considered 'perky')

 We get a closeup of the dead writers original manuscript that's kept under lock and key in a safe. 

You know who else liked safes, documents and closeups of them? I'm drawn to yet another scene in "Marnie"

 We meet Mrs. Lang. This ones peculiar! Her attire matches her mood. Depressed, sarcastic and boring. Not a very welcoming hostess.

THIS is how you should make an entrance!

 We head out to the beach for a walk. Still cold, dreary and awkward but at least we have security watching our backs. (Compliments of Great Britain)

 We're reminded that things that appear so beautiful aren't always so inviting or pleasant. (This scene needs a crop duster!)

 It's time to head to the airport to meet the ex PM. With a biting remark and just one look we realize there's a lot of tension between the assistant and Mrs. Lang. (Keeping my fingers crossed that we see these two in a hair pulling fight knock down drag out and the assistant is exposed for not actually being British. (Well, that would make me feel a lot better about Cattrall's horrid attempt at an accent.)

 Yes! Sometimes one looks tells us all we need to know. (Watch and learn Cattrall!)

Boy, this is a cheerful greeting party. Maybe they're greeting a casket.

 Nope! It's Mr. Personality. Just like a politician to smile and appear fine in the face of scandal and his world falling apart. 

 I guess it's going to take more than a wave to soften this crowd!

 The Ghost Writer heads to his hotel which is also isolated and from the outside it doesn't look like your fun little touristy Ramada Inn. I would bet they don't even have a gift shop or valet parking

 It looks even scarier up close! 

I think we're supposed to be reminded of this!

 The desk clerk is a nightmare!

No! Not that kind of nightmare. At least I hope not since I really like Ewan McGregor.

 We get a nice little shot of our writer passed out while the glow of the light house and more ominous music makes us think there's going to be trouble.

Kind of like another naive character in a Hitchcock film titled "Rebecca". I'm sure she can relate to Ewan though since she didn't have a first name in her film either!

 He survives the night and it's back to work. We need to get started on the book revisions but I can't stop staring at the window and how fake, unapproachable the background appears. 

Kind of like this!

And this!

 As the PM starts to tell his life story we want to believe him, trust that he's a good guy but there's just something about him that makes you question his integrity. I think it's his good looks and that British accent that makes us want to believe him.

Like this guy! I didn't trust you in "Suspicion", Cary. But you're a fabulous dresser.

 You are no Cary Grant, Mr. Brosnan but do carry on in your track suit.

 Our Ghost Writer likes to observe things at a distance and he's starting to become suspicious of everything.

 Like this poor sod who keeps raking the leaves from the deck over and over. You know who else would have found this suspicious?

This guy! You would never convince him that raking leaves in the same spot every day was just a dedicated groundskeeper.

 Our Ghost Writer is tired of being in the dark (No not the fact that alarms are going off and the window shades are being locked down) He has decided to download the original manuscript that got the first guy killed.

 Which brings out the dark side of Mr. Lang. Still not sure if he's a bad guy or he's being framed. It's obvious he isn't very forthcoming and has a lot to hide. 

Like this guy but without any fancy jewels or impressive athleticism.

 Back at the Bates Hotel, the Ghost Writer is trying to wind down with a night cap but a stranger appears and tries to make small talk.

 Do not sit with strangers or listen to any of their stories.

Even if it's a stranger on a train! Okay! Especially if it's a stranger on a train.

 The Ghost Writer isn't interested in my advice as he notices his room has been broken into and ransacked. 

 Of course the desk clerk is nowhere to be found. If there's a large scary house on a hill I would start looking there but during the day and with a gun.

 The media arrives as our Ghost Writer gets a call, told that someone will arrive to pick him up. 

 From the looks of the lobby, Tony Perkins is going to be a very busy boy!

The morning newspaper provides more news. No! Not that kind of news. Get out of here Marnie!

 This news! 

 As we arrive back at the compound we see that it's been surrounded by the media and angry protesters. And the guy from the hotel bar.

Our writer is escorted to the guest room which just happens to be the same room the dead writer stayed in. (I guess we can rule out that crazy desk clerk as his killer)

 The big wigs, attys have arrived to work out a game plan to get ahead of the brewing scandal.

 Things are quickly going from bad to worse but at least we get to enjoy the architecture. 

You know who else liked modern architecture that overshadowed bad news? 

 It's apparent that they won't get any privacy here.

 The Ghost Writer is relieved that it isn't a crop duster although it would give us a fun chase. These people aren't very exciting.

 Their looks tell us all we need to know. You're screwed buddy! 

 As the PM heads to the airport and to D.C. to face the music we get another glimpse of that ugly sculpture and the drab surroundings. The scene needs some birds!

Tipi: "Yes, I know depressing surroundings but trust me, ya don't want birds!"

 While Mr. Lang stops to make a statement, try to do damage control.

 The Ghost Writer does some snooping.

 And finds some things hidden by the dead guy.  Just don't break any valuable figurines then hide them while you're snooping around.

 It appears the ex PM used to belong to the Labor Party before being elected.  (It wouldn't be the first time someone running for office changed his views, what he stands for just to get elected!)

The nosy housekeeper shows up to leer and act weird.

 No! Not quite that weird!

 The package contains a few old photos of our PM and one with a phone number on the back. Not understanding that this info most likely got the other writer killed, he dials the number then hangs up. (Do you not have caller ID in New York?)

 While our writer approaches the OCD groundskeeper our housekeeper looks on. I hope she doesn't have access to matches!

 Our groundskeeper is pretty strange but friendly. He tries to offer up the same SUV that the dead guy was last seen driving. (In case you were wondering if you would ever see it again you don't have to stress over that any longer) At least we get one question answered. He also reminds me of another character who may or may not have had an obsession with raking.

This guy! Just two questions for you buddy, while you're here. Do you enjoy yard work and just how much did you know and when did ya know it?

 I really don't blame our writer for doing some investigating via a bike during a downpour when the other option is the vehicle that his predecessor was last seen in.  If Polanski would indulge us with an even wider shot I bet we would see...

...A fun chase. I hope we get a chase and some kidnapping.

 We end up at a broken down cottage by the sea and a paranoid old man. I've seen this scene somewhere before.

Hello, little man by the sea in "Rebecca".

He's all to willing to talk about the ocean currents the night the man washed ashore. And flashlights on the beach.  A witness turns up in a coma from a fall a week later. This guy has a lot to say. Be safe little man!

I'm now convinced that Polanski was a big fan of Hitch.

Our Ghost Writer heads down to the beach where the body washed up only to find Mrs. Lang and her bodyguard already there.

 Later that night they meet up for a drink and some stories which tells us nothing really other than she's capable of cleaning up for social gatherings.

Get out of here Grace! We all know how perfect you look at social gatherings.

 Later on that night we get a bedroom visit after a few too many cocktails. You know who else barges into rooms in robes when it's inappropriate?

This cool cat! They're always good looking drunk people in sheeps clothing or robes. Wait, how does that saying go?

Don't invite her in unless you want to end up face down in a pool after being taken advantage of.

Having survived another night, our writer sets out to do more investigating.

Yes, it's still cold and rainy and we're reminded that the sculpture is still there.

He quickly realizes that the car navigation system is still set from the previous trip which he decides to take, see where it leads him.

We end up on an isolated road where he gets out of the car to snoop around all while I yell "Never get out of the car, ya moron!"

A very appropriate name for the security company. I tell myself that this film could use a cyclops then I'm reminded that this is about Hitchcock and not Roger Corman.

We go through other peoples mail. Living on the edge here!

Get out of here Marnie! He's not that desperate or insane.

We approach the house and greet the owner. Cyclops Security is weak but with the name it probably only has one security camera anyway! Jimmy Stewart could get past it in his wheelchair.

It's Tom Wilkinson posing as a Professor who may or may not know the ex PM.  What we do know is this was where the dead writer visited the day he fell to the sea.

Our writer manages to lose a couple of shady characters who've followed him to the ferry. Yep, the SUV is back on the boat!

Enjoy your ride, expensive BMW and danger magnet!

Conveniently, the ferry terminal also has it's very own creepy motel. Our writer settles in and calls that mysterious phone number again then waits for someone to show up.

I won't spoil the ending by giving away who arrives but that person brings a very menacing character to retrieve our writer.

He willingly gets into the back of a limo and gets some very valuable information on our Prime Minister. 

Then he's summoned by that PM who's on to him and his snooping.

I can tell you that I have no clue even this late into the film if he's being set up or if he's rotten to the core. Good thing our writer confronts him with his info on a plane instead of a car. He might just end up headed over a cliff. 

Welcome back! Don't know if you are the devil either.

We skip to our writer being interrogated after a shooting. I won't tell you who was shot or by whom but it's an interesting twist.

Our Ghost Writer makes his way back to the UK where we meet up with him a few weeks later at his book signing. Yes, that damn book finally gets rewritten.

But after speaking briefly with the once perky Cattrall, something clicks and he finally finds the missing clues hidden in the original memoir.  This all leads to a few more twists before our writer walks out, having solved a murder. Well, at least I think so but it's all so Hitchcock that things may not be that simple.

As the Ghost Writer walks out onto the London streets and we think it's the end.

Something else happens which I'll just say, leaves that cursed manuscript flying through the air, flying into people. Well, at least it's not birds!

"The Ghost Writer" Trivia:

Roman Polanski was arrested at his home in Switzerland (where he's been exiled for many years) when The Ghost Writer was in post-production. He oversaw all of the artistic decisions from jail then later, once he was released, placed on house arrest in Switzerland.

The main character was never given an actual name in the film or original novel, opting instead to refer to the character simply as "Ghost".

All of the outdoor filming took place in Germany since Polanski could not step foot in the United States to film in Massachusetts where most of the film takes place.

The Lang house was built on a studio lot with green screens used for the window views.

Both Nicolas Cage and Hugh Grant were offered the lead as The Ghost but turned the role down. (Yes, Cage, I bet it was a tough choice to star in a great film or "The Ghost Rider")

Tilda Swinton was first offered the role of Ruth Lang but turned it down.

I do apologize for getting this article up so late but I hope you enjoyed it. If you've seen The Ghost Writer I do hope you'll share your views on it and whether it gave you that Hitchcock feel.

Off now to read the other reviews. Also, if you haven't read them please visit Tales of the Easily Distracted for the full list which can be found HERE.

Lastly, Thank you Dorian, for hosting such a clever Blogathon.


  1. Page, my grandmother loves thrillers and other day I found it on TV so I convinced her to watch, but I myself didn't do it. My grandmother liked it a lot!
    It was great to put together scenes of the movie and of Hitch's movies! It must have been a hard, yet fun work!
    Oh, it's embarassing to tell this, but I thought Dorian was a man (or a male name)... Shame on me for not seeing her profile photo!

    1. Hey, Le, Dorian here! Don't worry about initially thinking I was a man and not the lovely lady that I am! :-) Dorian happens to be a unisex name, suitable for both men and women. When I was born, my mom originally named me "Doria," but during her hospital stay, Mom began to worry that people would call me "Dora," so she added an "n" and I've been Dorian ever since. Ironically, people often mistakenly think my name is "Doreen" or "Dorianne"! Go figure! Many of my friends and loved ones call me "Dori" or even "Dor," so if that's easier for you, it's OK with me! :-) Thanks for being part of our Blogathon!

    2. Lr,
      The funny thing is I thought you were a guy named Le for the longest until I looked at your blog profile! : )

      I've got to read, comment on everyone elses posts now that my computer problems are behind me.

      Glad your grandmother enjoyed TGW. It certainly does have that vintage feel. Hopefully you'll take the time to see it then share your thoughts.

      Have a great weekend!

    3. Dorian and Page,
      That's a funny story to all of us! Just to mention, Le is my nickname and it is how I like to be called. My real full first name is Letícia, pretty common here in Brazil but not a lot in the US. I've never heard about a masculine equivalent of my name until I saw it on a book... and it was a guy with the same last name as me!
      By the way, you are both lovely ladies!

  2. Yay, another one of your funny and clever picture posts, Page - nice one! This looks like a very interesting film. Polanski seems to be one of the better directors to emulate Hitchcock...he can achieve a real creepy, off-kilter vibe in his films (like in the THE NINTH GATE or REPULSION) and he has real skill in casting unique faces in small parts. I haven't caught up with this one yet but it's been added to the queue.

    1. Hi Jeff!
      So glad you enjoyed my take on TGW and I do hope you'll get the chance to see it. Interested to see what you think of it.

      Great examples of Polanski's work and how he used small characters to propel his films to another level.

  3. This movie looks pretty cool, Page. Now I'm going to have to see it. Thank you!

    1. Christian,
      I do hope you'll give it a chance and see what I see in my comparisons to Hitch.
      Have a nice weekend!

  4. I have not yet seen the film, The Ghost Writer. But, I will now after reading your awesome review.

    1. Dawn,
      I do hope you'll give TGW a chance then let us know what you think.
      Have a great weekend!

  5. This review is hysterical! I love it!! This is where I nearly spewed my coffee onto my computer screen: "You are no Cary Grant, Mr. Brosnan but do carry on in your track suit."

    1. Silverscreening,
      Thanks so much for stopping by and for the kind remarks. Glad my sarcastic look at a great film went over. I'm always concerned that I'll get pummeled with tomatoes or worse. Ha Ha

  6. What a fun post, Page. When this film came out, I enjoyed it very much and recommended it to my friends, all who hated it. Oh well! It is a bit drab - no doubt Hitch would have given it some Hollywood glam. But these are rather drab times and the film captured them very nicely.

    1. FlickChick,
      So glad to know you saw TGW as I think most missed it. It didn't get much publicity which is a shame. I suspect it was due to Polanski's struggles, reputation here in the states. If he weren't exiled I can imagine we would be treated to some great films.


  7. Page, your pictorial blog posts are always great fun to read, and THE GHOST WRITER (TGW) was no exception! I loved your clever and witty juxtaposition of the movie's scenes and the bona-fide Hitchcock scenes from Hitchcock's movies. You made a good point about Ewan McGregor and Joan Fontaine's characters in, respectively, TGW and REBECCA both being mysteriously nameless. Your running gags cracked me up, of course, especially the "Get out of here, Marnie!" bit. (Chortled over the CURLY SUE gag!) I also loved these:

    *** "I'm sure he was killed...trying to steal crab pots. Getting prime ingredients for New England clam chowder can be dangerous business!" No wonder Pierce Brosnan's character needed a security detail! :-) (By the way, my dear late mom was a huge fan of Pierce Brosnan; couldn't blame her! :-))

    *** "Are there really that many armed robbers out there looking to steal first drafts of books?" (I guess it depends on the book! :-))

    *** "Who got the short straw in being the waterboardee in that reenactment?"

    For the record, I'll take Frank Lloyd Wright's isolated home over Pierce Brosnan's character's isolated home anytime! :-)

    Page, thanks for being a pal and a delightful part of our Blogathon! A blogathon without you is like a blogathon without sunshine! :-)

    1. Dear sweet Dorian,
      You're so kind and I'm relieved that you enjoyed this take on TGW. Between my computer woes and everything else going on I was fearful it would not only be late but not get finished.

      So glad you did this Blogathon so I could write about this film, expose it to others. To me it is such a great example of how Polanski appreciated Hitch and utilized his techniques to create perfection.

      Thanks again for including me in such a clever event and for the very sweet and genuine compliments. If I'm sunshine, you're rainbows! : )

  8. Yes, Virginia, there is a more horrifying smile then Giada De Laurentiis'.

    That flight attendant looks for all the world like a denatsate. That's when a beggar would have their lips and cheeks surgically (well, a sharp knife was involved) removed so as to elicit more donations.

    1. Hi Vincent!
      What a treat to see you here. So glad you've taken the blogging world by storm.

      Trying not to imagine a dematsate and I won't be able to see that flight attendant in the same light going forward. I know Giada would love it too!

  9. Awesomely organized! I think you found a true modern day Hitchcock like film. If Pierce Brosnan, Ewan McGregor, and Kim Cattrall had been stars when Hitch was directing/producing, they were definitely actors he would have used.

    1. Gilby,
      Polanski was quite successful in casting interesting characters, giving us a retro thriller feel in 2010. The advantage of writing a script then directing is a gift for us who appreciate this kind of mystery/thriller. We don't get enough of them with ll of the slasher crap that's thrown at us these days.

      Thanks for the compliments. I'm glad you enjoyed this style of review.

  10. Page, Thanks for alerting me to "The Ghost Writer" - I was completely unaware of it. Anyone who saw "Rosemary's Baby" on release would have wondered if Roman Polanski might possibly be Alfred Hitchcock's illegitimate Polish son. His first American film was a powerhouse of atmosphere, suspense and cinematic pyrotechnics. He was out-Hitchcocking the master at that point. But his life took a tragic turn and his career, though there are masterpieces, uneven. This is a very enjoyable post and, as always, clever and amusing. Plus I learned about a very interesting-sounding film. Great choice!

    1. Lady Eve,
      Knowing your taste in cinema, television (Mad Men) I really think you would enjoy The Ghost Writer.
      Polanski still has it and I do hope he lends his talents to directing/writing other films, especially in this genre.

      I really enjoyed your comparisons of Hitch and Polanski. Especially reminding us of what Rosemary's Baby offered as an example. I'd really like to go back and find other Polanski films that I've missed.

      Thanks so much for the kind comments on this review. I did my best to leave out the scenes that were plot twist giveaways. I do hope you'll watch it then let me know what you think, if you get that Hitchcock feel.

  11. Fun review, Page! I especially liked all of the parallels that you drew to other Hitchcock films, as well as the other vintage movie connections. I'm not sure how this movie slipped past my radar, but I'll have to check it out.

    1. Barry,
      Thanks so much. It's such a good film that I wanted to do a tribute to it without spoiling it in the hopes others would watch it.

  12. Definitely one of your best posts! I wasn't aware just how much like Hitchcock this movie was until now. Gonna have to see this eventually.

    1. Thanks Rich!
      That means a lot. If you enjoy Polanski I think you'll enjoy this one. I didn't touch upon it but there are a few hilarious lines in the film as well.

  13. Wow! Sounds like a dandy! How did this escape my notice? My head must have been up my - well, somewhere it shouldn't have been. What would we do without you, Page?

  14. Hi! Great site! I'm trying to find an email address to contact you on to ask if you would please consider adding a link to my website. I'd really appreciate if you could email me back.

    Thanks and have a great day!

  15. This movie is Hitchcock through and through! Also if you get a chance, check out my top 10 Hitchcock movies on my site

    1. Thanks for stopping by!
      I'll be sure to check out your site. Thanks for the link.

  16. I thought this was awesome!!!! Loved all of your Hitchcock references :) and I also love Hitchcock as well. Please, will you also check out my old movie blog? I would love it if you do, and also comment on what you think I do well at, or where I should improve. Thanks :) again I shall say, Love this!!!

    1. Hi Coley! So glad you liked this review. My first snarky photo review was actually on Marnie which wasn't that popular but I like the film very much. If you get the chance it's in the Oct. 2011 archives.

      I look forward to checking out your blog and adding it to my blog roll. Thanks so much for following here. I look forward to your future comments and discussion on old cinema.
      Have a great weekend!