STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Let's get a movie review next. Director Roman Polanski has been in the news for his legal problems rather than his filmmaking. But Kenneth Turan says his new film will change that.
KENNETH TURAN: Roman Polanski is back. His new film, "The Ghost Writer," is a dark pearl of a movie, made with the flair and precision of a director suddenly returned to the height of his powers.
The film starts quietly, with an unnamed ghostwriter who's being convinced by his agent to pump up the memoirs of a former British prime minister, a character modeled after Tony Blair.
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Mr. PIERCE BROSNAN (Actor): (as Adam Lang) Hello, who are you?
Mr. EWAN MCGREGOR (Actor): (as The Ghost) I'm your ghost.
Mr. BROSNAN: (as Adam Lang) Right.
Ms. OLIVIA WILLIAMS (Actress): (as Ruth Lang) Dont worry, he isn't always such a jerk.
TURAN: No sooner does the ghost sign on then the other shoe drops. The prime minister, smoothly played by Pierce Brosnan, is accused of ordering the kidnapping of suspected terrorists and handing them over to the CIA for torture, a charge which could bring prosecution for war crimes.
Ms. WILLIAMS: (as Ruth Lang) If it suits them, they will hang you out to dry. You need a lawyer. Call Sid.
Ms. KIM CATTRALL (Actress): (as Amelia Bly) And what about the media?
Ms. WILLIAMS: (as Ruth Lang) Issue a holding statement - something short.
Ms. CATTRALL: (as Amelia Bly) I'll write something.
Ms. WILLIAMS: (as Ruth Lang) Let him do it. He's supposed to be the writer.
Mr. MCGREGOR: (as The Ghost) Hang on a minute.
Mr. BROSNAN: (as Adam Lang) I should sound confident; not defensive, that would be fatal. I shouldnt be cocky. No business, no anger, and dont say I'm pleased with this opportunity to clear my name or any balls like that.
Mr. MCGREGOR: (as The Ghost) So youre not defensive, but youre not cocky. Youre not angry, but youre not pleased.
Mr. BROSNAN: (as Adam Lang) That's it.
Mr. MCGREGOR: (as The Ghost) Then what exactly are you?
TURAN: What, the ghost wonders, has his agent gotten him into? As for Polanski, no director is better at creating an across-the-board mood of nagging unease -a sense of nefarious doings just outside our line of sight. This film is a thriller, wrapped around a roman a clef about contemporary politics, wrapped around Polanksi's perennial cynicism about the fate of individuals faced with the entrenched strength of the powerful.
Ewan McGregor is excellent as the Ghost With No Name. And 94-year-old Eli Wallach brings great brio to a small part here, the same way he did with "Mystic River" back in 2003. That film reignited the directing career of Clint Eastwood and with any kind of luck, "The Ghost Writer" will help Roman Polanski catch fire one more time.
INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for the Los Angeles Times and for MORNING EDITION, and you can see clips from "The Ghost Writer" at npr.org.
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