By Dirk Sonniksen | February 26, 2010
Director: Roman Polanski
Writer: Robert Harris (Novel & Adaptation)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson
There’s a dead guy on the beach which leaves former British Prime Minster, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) sans a ghost writer for his memoirs. The hunt is on for a warm body to fill his shoes, and The Ghost (Ewan McGregor) becomes the beneficiary of Lang’s life story. But nothing is ever as it seems, and The Ghost seems to sense that this assignment is going to be a strange one from the beginning. But before he has a chance to opt-out, he is quickly whisked away to Lang’s ocean-side hideaway. What he finds is an Adam Lang that is different from what he expected: a man whose past political mistakes have caught up with him, and who is seemingly not who he appears to be.
As The Ghost begins work editing Lang’s existing memoirs (courtesy of the dead guy on the beach), Ruth Lang (Olivia Williams) appears and proves a valuable resource for The Ghost, filling in the pieces that the Prime Minister has left out—or does she? As The Ghost delves deeper into Lang’s life, he begins to realize he is caught up in far more than the current political intrigue being reported by the media. As The Ghost continues to pump Lang, his wife, and others for information, clues left by his predecessor pull The Ghost even deeper into this sordid tale. The whole mess begins to unravel, with The Ghost ultimately trading in his keyboard for a detective cap.
Based on the novel The Ghost by Robert Harris, The Ghost Writer is a handsome little package that delves into the political entanglements between the United States and Great Britain. It is initially a story of politics, but ends up being light on the political side, with more weight placed on character development. Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan are certainly the centerpieces of this film, both turning out fine performances. But a film like The Ghost Writer is not held up merely by its stars—enough cannot be said for the supporting performances of Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson, and Kim Cattrall, to mention a few.
The Ghost Writer is in some ways a cross between an Agatha Christie novel and one of Woody Allen’s later films. It’s a film that is touted as a political thriller, but ends up being a really well put together mystery with a bit humor interspersed throughout. That doesn’t make The Ghost Writer a bad film—it certainly isn’t.
In The Ghost Writer, Polanski has crafted a masterful tale with an extremely solid story, amazing cast, and cinematography you’d come to expect from a veteran director. What might throw people is that this is not a fast-moving thriller, but a slow burn that is strangely satisfying.