The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski) 2010 Minor spoilers
The spoilers are more in line with discussing the theme of the movie.
A ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) is hired on to help finish the memoirs of former Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). There was a previous writer that did most of the work, however died under mysterious circumstances. Lang is a highly controversial figure and is in trouble with the World Court. The Ghost starts to find revealing facts about Lang and is caught in the middle of a mysterious plot.
I, of course, can’t reveal too many details about the plot because this is a thriller and a mystery about a conspiracy. While Polanski never mentions such names as Tony Blair, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove or mention a little thing like the War in Iraq, it is hard not to get the pointed inferences. However, this is not your usual (what some would classify) liberal Hollywood ramblings against the War in Iraq. Even though Adam Lang is pale cover for Tony Blair, Pierce Brosnan is not trying to do an impression nor are their any direct comparisons between the two careers. The message is more directed in general at the brand of political leaders Polanski sees nowadays.
Lang is a playboy actor and a competent speaker. He is not someone who has an incredible intellect (he is no dummy, just not a scholar) but can charm voters over with his demeanor. However he is simply a mouthpiece for the many interests behind the scenes. It is an indictment of politics as a whole instead of just saying “Cheney is the devil, Tony Blair is a dick.” On the whole the movie is far enough from reality that we don’t feel lectured and not far enough that the conspiracy plot is complete horseshit.
For the most part the conspiracy plot works. Now conspiracy theories usually aren’t credible. I am simply talking about in the context of this movie, the plot never does something so radical that would have you calling bullshit. The movie ends with a bit of a hiccup, but not anything that would ruin the movie.
The movie, for the most part, works as a thriller. There is a nice atmosphere of paranoia going around that while there isn’t anything terribly shocking going on, you get the sense that something bad is around the corner. By that I mean it doesn’t descend into typical action movie tropes. The tension is slow building and the fear is that of the unknown: both in the men behind the scenes and what could potentially happen to the ghost writer.
Pierce Brosnan does a good job as Adam Lang. He is not playing James Bond nor Tony Blair. Brosnan does a good job of being a charming guy while at the same time carrying an undertone of menace about him. The other really good job is by Olivia Williams who plays Lang’s wife Ruth. She has to do a lot of different things with her character and they all feel natural.
There were some problems I had with this movie. As I said, the ending is not quite what I hoped for. Again, it isn’t a deal breaker but…I’ll just say its rushed in comparison to the rest of the project. My main problem is that with the character McGregor plays. The Ghost (simply titled on the credits) is not a character we fully get behind because his character is a little erratic. At one moment he is a writer with no morals or qualms about what he writes about, and the next he is a crusader, one minute he is meek, the next he is challenging people, one minute dumb (sometimes when the script necessitates) and the next brilliant. In fact, part of the reason the ending doesn’t work is because The Ghost does something that I don’t completely see his character doing (at least not without some more characterization). And as I alluded to earlier, at times Ghost is as dumb as a post only because the script needs him to be to keep the intrigue going.
That may seem like some harsh criticism but I really did like this movie. These types of movies usually crumble upon heavy examination but aside from some cracks I think it does hold together (again in movie logic). The suspense was well done, the mystery was interesting, and overall it was very entertaining.