The Ghost Writer

First Hit: A very good timely film with wonderfully constructed scenes.

Ewan McGregor plays "The Ghost"; the ghost writer who is selected to pick up where a recently deceased ghost writer left off.

The opening scene shows him interviewing for the job and it perfectly sets the tone for his skills and proclivities. The Ghost is brash, likes to drink, prone to pointed quips and intelligent. The project he is interviewing for is to complete the autobiography of Britain’s recent Prime Minister Adam Lang (played by Pierce Brosnan).

The manuscript is under lock and key and stored in a safe at a beach house Lang occupies while he is in the US. The beach house is modern, highly secured, has cement walls with modern art, and gas and rock fireplaces giving it the feel of a high priced bunker.

This setting prescribes that there is reason to worry about the contents of the manuscript. But after his first read of the manuscript The Ghost wonders what all the fuss is about. In fact he rolls his eyes after the first read of the manuscript.

Amelia, Lang's assistant, (played by Kim Cattrall) is the primary keeper of the key to the manuscript’s safe and is also a competitor for Lang’s romantic attention. Lang's wife Ruth (played by Olivia Williams) is a highly intelligent and Lang counts on her opinion for most of his decisions. 

As The Ghost starts work on his assignment, the World Court in The Hague starts investigative proceedings into war crimes against Lang and possibly his US White House counterpart (film suggests it George W. Bush). This complicates his work and slowly but surely he begins to become investigative about the death of his predecessor and the reason why Lang's information doesn't add up.

One of the things I liked about this film was that The Ghost doesn’t know all the answers ahead of time and there is a slow awakening towards the reasons why the previous Ghost died in addition to the how and why Lang got into politics.

McGregor is very strong in this role as The Ghost. He clearly isn’t an investigative reporter, but slowly he gets caught up in putting the pieces together and does a good job of portraying this inquisitive growth. Brosnan is very good as the smart but slightly out of touch former Prime Minister who has been manipulated and doesn’t know it. Williams and Cattrall were also very good as protagonists towards each other and supporters of Lang. Polanski clearly had a vision for this film and didn’t attempt to create suspense and drama with camera movement. He created it with simple well choreographed long shots which embedded the film with thoughtful forbearance.

Overall: Well executed and timely film about the political climate. However, I was distracted throughout the film by wondering if the film was really being shot in the US (Cape Cod area) with Polanski’s current legal trouble and noted during the credits, it was shot elsewhere.