In the 2010 film The Ghost Writer, Ewan McGregor plays a character known as the Ghost. We never actually learn the name of his character and that’s perhaps appropriate. The Ghost has made his living by being anonymous. He’s a ghost writer. He’s the guy who is hired to help inarticulate and occasionally illiterate celebrities write best-selling biographies.
The Ghost has been given a new assignment. He is to ghost write the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). Despite the fact that Adam is one of the most famous men in the world, the Ghost is not initially enthusiastic about working with him.
First off, there’s the fact that Adam and his wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams), are currently hiding out in America because America is one of the few countries that will not extradite him to be prosecuted for war crimes at the International Criminal Court. It seems that Adam (much like Tony Blair) is a controversial figure because of some of the actions he may have authorized as a part of the war on terror. Not only does the Ghost have political objections to working with Adam but he has to leave his London home and go to Massachusetts in order to do so.
Secondly, there’s the fact that, once the Ghost arrives in America, he discovers that — for such a controversial figure — Adam is actually rather boring and seems to have very little knowledge about anything that he did while he was prime minister. Instead, he seems to be more interested in spending time with his mistress (Kim Cattrall, giving the film’s one bad performance). Ruth seems to be the political (and smart) one in the marriage.
And finally, there’s the fact that the Ghost is actually the second writer to have worked with Adam. The previous writer mysteriously drowned. While that death was ruled to be an accident, the Ghost comes to suspect that it was murder and that the motive is hidden in the first writer’s manuscript…
The Ghost Writer is a favorite of mine, a smart and witty political thriller that features great performances from Ewan McGregor, Olivia Williams, and Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan especially seems to be having a lot of fun sending up his dashing, James Bond image. Roman Polanski directs at a fast pace and maintains a perfect atmosphere of growing paranoia throughout the entire film. In the end, The Ghost Writer proudly continues the tradition of such superior paranoia films as The Conversation, Three Days of the Condor, and the Parallax View.
Incidentally, I have a theory that Adam Lang was also the unseen Prime Minister who was featured in Into the Loop. Watching The Ghost Writer, it’s hard not to feel that Adam really feel apart without Malcolm around to help him out.