The Ghost Writer (2010)

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Released 16-Feb-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Ghost Writer: Fiction or Reality
Featurette-Making Of-The Cast of the Ghost Writer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 122:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Roman Polanski

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Ewan McGregor
Jon Bernthal
Tim Preece
James Belushi
Timothy Hutton
Anna Botting
Yvonne Tomlinson
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Alexandre Desplat

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     There is a twisted irony to be found in Roman Polanski's latest film, The Ghost Writer, which mirrors the director’s own troubled past and present. When former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) sadly realises he cannot return to Great Britain without being arrested, it is not difficult to imagine Roman Polanski brooding over the same predicament. After all, he has been unable to return to his adopted homeland of the United States since skipping the country to avoid statutory rape charges in the 70s. In fact, not only did the prohibition on returning to the US mean that the American settings for The Ghost Writer were re-imagined in Europe for filming purposes but the director himself was arrested and threatened with extradition during the post-production for the film. Fortunately he was able to finish it whilst under arrest.

     The Ghost Writer is based on the successful novel by Robert Harris, The Ghost. Although it is easy to see why the producers changed the name of the book to a title which dispels any notion of spectral occurrences, it is nevertheless a pity that the original title could not be retained for most of the world. In fact, the original title was used for the United Kingdom. For the title carries a double meaning; not only is the unnamed ghost writer played by Ewan McGregor something of a cipher but the film itself deals with characters who are only just in the land of the living. Lang himself admits that since becoming Prime Minister he lost the ability to act as a normal person and deal with the mundane requirements of civilian life.

     When the ghost writer is approached by his agent to audition, amongst serious company, to write the memoirs of former Prime Minister Lang, his sixth sense starts buzzing. That's no surprise, for the previous ghost writer, who had completed the first draft of Lang's overdue and heavily funded memoirs, met an untimely death when his body was found washed up on a nearby shore. What's more, he is hardly the man for the job as his last book was the autobiography of a magician! He is given a simple task by the publishers - finish the memoirs in one month and rake in the cash! The ghost writer arrives at a key time in Lang's life. As it turns out, his job is not so easy. Rather than the carefree retiree the ghost writer finds a man in a whirlpool of problems. Not only are the memoirs dull and unsuitable for publication but Lang has just been called out as a war criminal by former friend Richard Rycart (Robert Pugh). He is accused of forming sweet deals with the US government allowing British citizens suspected of terrorism to be arrested and snuck out of the country into US torture camps for interrogation. Lang's home life is not that much better. His wife and political ally Ruth (Olivia Williams) is resentful of his personal assistant Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall) who seems to attend to just a few too many of Lang's personal wishes. Amongst this turmoil the ghost writer has to work feverishly to construct an exciting, relevant memoir.

     But The Ghost Writer is not a tale of creative anguish. At heart it is a slow-burning, tense thriller with political overtones. For as the ghost writer delves deeper into the memoir, trying to put a cohesive story together, he finds minor inconsistencies, small molehills that gradually become mountains. He realises that the death of the first ghost writer may not have been an accident and that there are dark forces swirling around the former prime minister. But who can he trust?

     The Ghost was an exciting read. The parallels between Adam Lang and Ruth Lang and the Blairs are obvious. The shocks and revelations that punctuate this tense drama are far-fetched… Or are they? Keeping close to the story Polanski has crafted a taut, always interesting screenplay from the novel. Purists however may balk at one major change, a shocking but conceivable ending to the film. Still, Harris co-wrote the screenplay so no-one can complain that it was changed through uncaring intervention.

     The film is well acted with McGregor acquitting himself perfectly as the creatively skilled but somewhat dim ghost writer and Pierce Brosnan as the former Prime Minister with more than a few secrets. Olivia Williams is perfect as the formidable and intelligent Ruth Lang and Kim Cattrall puts on a perfect mid-Atlantic accent to be the efficient personal secretary. This is not a thriller in the Bourne Identity sense. There are no gunfights and bare knuckle brawls. This is a thriller of character rather than an event. Those with an anti-Blair bent will be happy to follow the trail of suspicion and ponder over whether the story could hold more than a few truths. It comes well recommended.

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Transfer Quality


     The Ghost Writer was shot on 35 mm film and projected at the cinema at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. That aspect ratio has been maintained for the DVD release. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     As said, the designated location for the film is London and Martha's Vineyard. In fact, the film was shot in Germany and off the coast of Norway. Keen eyes will note that the windswept exteriors look nothing like the east coast of the United States however, that said, the exterior shooting beautifully conveys the cold world outside the estate where Lang is confined by his publisher, like a political prisoner, to get the book finished. The interiors in the estate were shot on a sound stage.

     As might be expected of a recent film this is a clear, crisp print. There are no noticeable technical defects with the transfer. There is some slight crush in the opening scenes as the ferry looms through the darkness to dock at port but otherwise this is a quality transfer. The colours are well defined and without bleeding. The flesh tones are accurate. There are no artefacts of any kind to be seen.

     If there is only one complaint it is that the film would probably benefit from a Blu-ray transfer and those with a few extra dollars and the right equipment would probably be advised to seek out the high-definition version.

    There are English subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The Ghost Writer carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 English soundtrack running at 448 KB/S. This is a good soundtrack. Dialogue can all be heard clearly. The surround sound perfectly conveys the ambience of the piece, including the wind at the beach and contains a certain punchiness with doors slamming and planes landing. The sub-woofer gives intelligent support to the film.

     For reasons that are best known to the distributors this film was censored in the United States though an uncensored version is available in the UK. As a result the keen eye will notice the substitution of various mild cuss words for their more serious counterparts. A curious decision as it is understandable they would want to keep the rating low if it was a kid’s film but any self-respecting teen would have bolted for the door after the first thirty minutes of this slow, brooding film. Otherwise the audio sync is fine.

     The score is by Alexandre Desplat who uses a full orchestra to punctuate the soundtrack with an undercurrent of mystery and dread.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     There are only two extras included with this DVD if you don't count, and I don't, the two skippable trailers.

The Ghost Writer: Fiction or Reality? (10.20)

     Novelist and co-scriptwriter Robert Harris talks about the process of developing the idea for the film which stemmed back years before the world knew Tony Blair. He talks of his admiration for Hitchcock and Polanski and their collaboration on an adaptation of his earlier novel, Pompeii, which failed to get off the ground. Worth a watch, particularly for fans of Harris. Be warned though, the featurette shows all the most dramatic and shocking moments from the film.

The Cast of The Ghost Writer (11.19)

     This short feature is mainly a puff piece with the leads getting a chance to praise each other and Polanski. There are a few shots of the manic diminutive Polanski working away at directing the film which give it a little more weight.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

 The Region 1 DVD is identical. The Region 2 has added cussing. The Blu-ray edition contains a further interviw with Polanski but otherwise this is a film that doesn't have a lot of features wherever you buy it.


     The Ghost Writer may not be the most nail-biting thriller out there but it is an intelligent and quietly gripping piece that casts doubt on our leaders and their motivations at times of war.

     The DVD is well transferred and sounds good. There is a slightly underwhelming series of extras on offer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

Other Reviews NONE
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UK Release - Uncensored Audio - M D B