The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski (The Pianist, Rosemary’s Baby) is an adaptation of the Robert Harris novel The Ghost. The movie stars Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams. Ewan McGregor is the ghostwriter brought in to finish a memoir after the original writer unexpectedly dies. The memoir is the life story of Adam Lang, a former Prime Minister of England. McGregor enters Lang’s organization just as a scandal is brought to the media forefront. Lang, played by Pierce Brosnan, is accused of war crimes because he ordered the capture and torture of terrorists in the Middle East with the help of the CIA.
Lang’s past is shady, but his wife is shadier. Ruth Lang, played by Olivia Williams, is the real politician not her husband. She knows more than she lets on and is Adam Lang’s moral compass that doesn’t exactly point north.
McGregor is given the thick manuscript his predecessor produced before he died. McGregor pours over it, making sweeping edits and trying to find the real story behind Lang. He digs more and finds something he shouldn’t. That is where he runs into some trouble.
McGregor is given one month to produce a memoir worth reading, and the story unfolds in what feels like real time. Thirty days later, the mystery is solved, the book is written, and suckers in the audience are left wondering why Roman Polanski dragged them through one hour and fifty-five minutes of McGregor’s pensive looks and monosyllabic conversation set to overly suspenseful music and then crammed the action in five minutes at the end.
This film will have you on the edge of your seat. But not because you are dying to know what happens. You’ll get there when you are just about to give up and admit this movie has no point. The film gets stuck in a ‘build suspense’ mode and forgets that there needs to be a story in there somewhere, too. Until the last five minutes that is, when they give a glimpse of what the movie could have been, a really good political thriller.