For years (and years) Roman Polanski has made his living by creating spectacular thrillers that feature strong writing, great acting, and even better “stab you in the back” moments. He’s the director behind great films, such as Repulsion (1965), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Chinatown (1974), and The Pianist (2002). Now he’s brought the world another great thriller, The Ghost Writer, this time set in the political realm.
The Ghost Writer stars Ewan McGregor (in his best performance ever, I think) as, simply, The Ghost who is hired to re-write the memoirs to Britain’s former Prime Minister Adam Lang (played very aptly by Pierce Brosnan) after the previous ghost writer commits suicide, or so we think. He’s getting paid a quarter of a million dollars for just four weeks of work, great money if you can get it. The Ghost quickly takes the job, in which he admittedly knows nothing about politics, and catches the first plane to Massachusetts where Lang now resides.
What unravels is something straight out of Polanski’s crazy mind where the unexpected happens and the good guys are often thrust into situations where your life could end at any moment. As The Ghost arrives at the Lang residence he becomes exiled to a room in the house where the memoir’s are kept and they can not leave that room for fear that they could destroy a nation (either Britain or the U.S.). Secrets, we all have them. The film then lets us in on a dirty little secret, Lang is about to become under investigation for various war crimes that were committed under his administration. While The Ghost tries his hardest to do the job he was hired to do, he finds himself distracted by Mrs. Lang (Olivia Williams, perfect) and then becomes sidetracked by an old photograph which points to an old Adam Lang associate (Tom Wilkinson) working with the CIA. It’s all downhill from here as events begin to go from bad to worse for The Ghost as he tries to stay alive amidst political secrets.
If you’re looking for a very smart political thriller with spot on acting, you shouldn’t miss The Ghost Writer, it’s Polanski’s best offering since he directed Adrian Brody to an Oscar win in The Pianist. Ewan McGregor could even find himself on the right side of an Academy Award nomination after this one. There aren’t enough smart movies out there, so skipping out on this one would be a crime in its own right.