The Ghost Writer (2010)
Dir: Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski has a troubled personal life, but his work as a director is very well-respected.
‘The Ghost Writer’ (or just ‘The Ghost’ in some markets) sees a very good cast brought together for a mystery thriller. Ewan McGregor stars as a professional ghost writer who is hired by a publishing house to get ex British Prime Minister Adam Lang’s (Pierce Brosnan) memoirs finished when the previous ghost writer drowned. However as he works on the closely guarded manuscript, Lang’s life gets more troubled as he’s wanted for crimes against humanity, calling the ghostwriter to question the man he’s working with even more, and turn investigative journalist by delving into his background for the secrets that may be hidden.
Though the memoirs being written are about Pierce Brosnan’s character, he really doesn’t get much of the focus. As the title might suggest, this film really is about the moral and professional struggles faced by the ghost writer. This sees Ewan McGregor however doing an ‘English’ accent, which I found somewhat annoying. I didn’t see why he couldn’t just have his own Scottish accent which is very nice and perfectly understandable, with Scotland being joined on to England he would be British anyway which is the only consideration for the character that the ghost writer should be British like the subject of the memoirs (who is played by an Irishman). What I do like though is the fact that his character isn’t actually named in the film, which nicely alludes to the fact that ghost writers don’t make a name for themselves and are often only acknowledged in the small print of ‘autobiographies’ and never on the cover.
Lang’s wife Ruth is played by the fantastic Olivia Williams, who is typically very good. I’ve seen her in this sort of powerful woman role before, specifically in ‘Dollhouse’, and she’s well suited to them.
The film is really a murder mystery more than political thriller though one of the main characters is a political figure and there’s some political issues going on. Lang as in the source novel is really meant to resemble Tony Blair, and the crimes he’s accused of are similar to some that Blair was accused of but not really brought before courts about. However, I strongly doubt that Cherie Blair is much like Ruth Lang, though I could be wrong…
Most interesting for me was the part of the story that struck me as mirroring the problems Polanski has legally. Lang as he’s wanted before the Hague is effectively stopped from travelling internationally as he would be deported by most countries. Possibly this is an element why Polanski was attracted to this, as there is an arrest warrant still outstanding for him, and in fact while making this film he could not go to the United States for location shooting there, and was put under house arrest while this was in post-production and he was travelling to a film festival. Polanski was also unable to attend the world premiere either because of the same issues.
The film itself is perfectly good, once you can put aside McGregor’s unneccessary accent and focus instead on the acting and nicely twisting mystery it’s very enjoyable, and possibly even more so when you see the director’s own struggles alluded to in the narrative.