The Ghost Writer
Uncommonly truth-based political thriller __ 8/10

Ghost WriterDirected by Roman Polanski
Book Robert Harris
Screenplay Roman Polanski

Ewan McGregor ... The Ghost
James Belushi ... John Maddox
Timothy Hutton ... Sidney Kroll
Kim Cattrall ... Amelia Bly
Olivia Williams ... Ruth Lang
Pierce Brosnan ... Adam Lang
Eli Wallach ... Old Man
Tom Wilkinson ... Paul Emmett
Robert Pugh ... Richard Rycart
Jon Bernthal ... Rick Ricardelli

The Ghost: I really don't think this is a good idea.
Richard Rycart: You have no choice.
The Ghost: Emmett must have told Lang I've been to see him.
Richard Rycart: So what's he going to do about it? Dump you in the ocean?
The Ghost: Well it happened before.
Richard Rycart: Which means it can't happen again. He can't drown two ghost writers, for God's sake. You're not kittens.

Always a problem reviewing a whodunit, because you need to tell a little bit of the story without giving away the key parts. So bear with me, let's give the broad strokes first: The Ghost (I guess we never learn his real name) is hired by an international publishing firm to take over the editing and final composition of Adam Lang's (British Prime Minister: Pierce Brosnan) memoirs... after the initial ghost writer was discovered drowned in the waters around Cape Cod, Massachusetts—location of the American 'cottage' of the PM, his wife (Olivia Williams), and staff led by Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall).

There are some mood-setting early scenes in London as the Ghost (Ewan McGregor) gets the job—midst some banter from his agent (Jon Bernthal), the American publishing executive (John Belushi), and the PM's American political liaison Sidney Kroll (Timothy Hutton). The work needs to be completed in a month, with the Ghost (G) staying with the PM at the Cape Cod compound. G's payment: $250,000 plus expenses. Hubba Hubba! Before leaving the London office, Kroll hands to G a manuscript—he says some other work not related to Lang's memoirs—asking if G would look it over as a favor. G is mugged near his apartment by two men who take the manuscript and ride away on motorcycles.

The mood-setting part here is the surrounding drabness, while G tries to recover his composure. He phones his agent all shook up, seriously thinking about dropping the project, which has espionage written all over it. (Not too many muggers rough you up for a manuscript: they must have thought it was Lang's memoirs, and either did or did not want the pages to see the light of day.) G lives alone, nothing stands out in his flat, he seems the perfect nonentity. Ironically, the reason he was awarded the contract stems from his conveying an enthusiasm for the creativity required for bringing out a famous man's story... especially providing a fresh, independent look—the human touch.

Soon G thinks better of walking out on $250K and then he's off to Cape Cod to meet the PM and stay with staff there to work on his assignment. The drabness continues; you have the impression that every day on the Cape it's either raining or just about to rain. The compound sits on an island that requires a ferry trip to reach. [In fact, the police are led to the death of G's predecessor by discovering that the previous ghost writer has left his late model luxury-sport automobile aboard the ferry... thus, later attributing the drowning to suicide or an accident.]

Another couple of pieces of information, then some reflection: While G is in transit to the Cape digs, he learns the PM (Lang) has been implicated by reports in the media of authorizing rendition and torture of several 'enemy combatants'—i.e. civilians innocent of everything except being scooped up by Iraq War coalition forces. The World Court at the Hague is planning a thorough investigation, and Lang is even expected to be arrested and arraigned upon his return to England. [This gives you a data point on the timing of the book, which was actually written in 1995; the screenplay is clearly from the early 2000s following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the Coalition of the Willing (Aggressors).]

Other subtleties develop in our understanding of the PM, and the director skillfully inserts them in the storyline. Nobody figures on the man with no name (G) being a curious bloke, so that's when all heck starts to come unglued... after the niceties of introduction between G and the PM. Also, G gets to know the PM's wife Ruth and the PM's chief of staff Emily. The PM, being in hot water with the human justice and antiwar crowd, cannot go home. At least not for a while. So he wanders around in the enclave of his (Neocon) friends in Washington, which further enables the cogent plot to continue. Recall that film director Roman Polanski also could not return 'home' to the United States for his alleged transgressions.

This is a good movie, and unlike so many current films of this genre, it proceeds with a pace that enables you to understand what's going on. Further, the dialog is clear, you get the sense the director has also slowed the conversation to assure comprehension of everyone in the audience. This slower, linear development is at first puzzling; you wonder if you stumbled into a made for TV movie or onto the set of Murder She Wrote. But you start to really appreciate it as the plot gets more intricate; also you realize that this is a conceptual movie and not a bunch of car chases, explosions, and T and A masquerading as a story.

Brosnan plays the perfect sleaze-ball PM, pretty clearly intended to be a Tony Blair lookalike... and be-alike. The other actors are first-rate. One wonders whether Polanski, who has long been the target of the US prosecutocracy, decided to stack the cast with well-known American stars... or the agents of these actors prevailed on Polanski to let them in as a show of moral support. In any case, the effect is to show some American-acting-community solidarity for the formerly beleaguered director. Apparently, the recent attempt to have Polanski extradited has failed, as the Swiss released the filmmaker from jail as a "free man."

From my perspective and that of so many now in the freedom movement, I'm happy the villains in the film turn out to be who they are. And that it makes so much sense. You can almost call it a documentary, but one that you will never see from the mainstream Hollywood production crowd. It's encouraging to me that some directors are not afraid to take on the true powers that be (PTB) on the global scale, because this means that the reign of terror and deceit of the power-sick ones is coming to an end.

As art, how will the film stack up critically in 10 years? In 30 years? You have to give McGregor high marks as the man with no name. He has some of the qualities of a leading man—notably the curiosity and desire to create—but also of a bright guy who would just as soon not be noticed. If you watch the film to study that character alone, it's a real education. Is G a hero or an anti-hero?

Finally, it's refreshing to find a film that brings up the war crimes of the Bush-Blair administrations and suggests there are still human beings in Western governments—at least in convincing fiction—who speak of trials and prosecution of the Neocons and their armies of torturing/murdering psychotics set loose on the world by USG false-flag state terror operations. By implication, the writers also indict as war criminals leaders of the present administrations who do nothing to make things right. Hey, LaBama, if you're against torture how about some prosecutions of those who are for it... in practice? Magnificent.

2011 February 16
Copyright © Brian Wright | The Coffee Coaster™
Ewan McGregor | Ghost Writer | Pierce Brosnan | Roman Polanski

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