Never judge a movie by the scandalous reputation of its director. Roman Polanski may have been in the news more often for his legal skirmishes and his involvement with underaged girls but his personal life does not in any way dampen his prowess as a movie director. His latest work, The Ghost Writer, great cast (the supporting cast includes Tom Wilkinson, Eli Wallach and Timothy Hutton) and… Pierce Brosnan.
Okay, so I’m biased. But it’s really a great film. What is it about? It’s the story of a ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) who was hired to finish the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Brosnan), after the original ghost writer turned up dead in what appeared to be a drowning accident. The day the ghost writer arrives at Lang’s U.S. residence, TV news airs a footage of a former British foreign minister accusing Lang of handing over suspected terrorists to the CIA for torture. A case is filed with the International Criminal Court and the British government assures its support.
In his attempt to rewrite his predecessor’s draft of the memoirs, the ghost writer tries to solve several puzzles including the truth about the death of the former ghost writer. Was it an accident or was he killed for something he was not supposed to discover? Who is Adam Lang, really? Is he guilty of war crimes? The question is provoked when the ghost writer discovers old school photos of Lang one of which shows him with professor who was also a known CIA asset. Lang visits the professor and puts his own life in danger.
I won’t spoil it for you as I’m hoping that you’ll have a chance to see the film. But just to contextualize the intriguing storyline, Lang’s character is supposedly based on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Lang dabbled in acting before he became interested in politics; Tony Blair played the guitar in a rock band. Lang was undoubtedly close to the U.S. government (he is living in Martha’s Vineyard in the story); Blair’s support of the U.S. in the invasion of Iraq and the war that followed raised a lot of controversy.
Yet, despite the political background, The Ghost Writer is fundamentally a thriller. Not the Jason Bourne kind, mind you. The three Bourne films were action packed and you won’t see half as much action in The Ghost Writer. But it is just as heart-thumping. I found myself holding my breath more than once.