Comfortable and Furious

The Ghost Writer

Directed by Roman Polanski

Screenplay by Polanski&Robert Harris from his novel The Ghost.


Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan,

Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson

Timothy Hutton, Jon Bernthal, David Rintoul

Robert Pugh, Eli Wallach (penultimate roll)

(and the unseen ghost of Mike McAra, a Rebecca-like presence in the narrative)

In Polanski’s slick, Hitchcockian thriller, a writer known only as the Ghost (Ewan McGregor), is hired to ghostwrite the memoirs of an ex British Prime Minister named Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), clearly based on Tony Blair.  His predecessor in this assignment was an close aid to  Lang who mysterious died in a place he had no reason to be.  Or, so as it first appeared.

Lang is holed-up with his wife, personal secretary and staff in a blockhouse like mansion under gray skies on Martha Vineyard, owned by the publisher of his proposed book, a ten million dollar investment (a great deal of money for a book with no sex I’m sure you’ll agree).  Lang enjoyed the footlights as a student and the political spotlight even more.  These days someone is standing in his keylite.

The manuscript the Ghost inherits from the late McAra has all the excitement and wit of the dog’s dinner, without the pleasing odor.  A closely guarded account of a public life, purported to contain classified information. Nothing so dull could be a security threat to anyone, but tell that to the C.I.A.  You don’t tell those Virginia farm boys anything until after the waterboarding.  If then.

Lang’s endorsement of the White House Afghan/Iraq policies (can you say, War Crimes?) are all too well known to  the world, especially the busy bodies at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. An investigation is launched when Lang’s former Foreign Secretary, a sleazy opportunist if there ever was one, accuses him of complicity in the  torture of suspected  British national terror suspects. Nothing personal, mind you, just business.  He ordered them turned over to C.I.A. Interrogators for a beautiful island vacation at Gitmo. (“As seen on TV!”).  He’d gone full-tilt Dick Cheney.

Then there is the wife/political advisor unhappy with her hubby’s relationship with the personal secretary/mistress.  So middle-class.

A grief crazed British army veteran  (a lifer, a 30 year man) is stalking Lang over the death of his soldier son in “Lang’s illegal war”.  I can understand his moral superiority in face of the British army murders in the Bogside Massacre.  English common sense, old boy, sniff.  Lets not forget the Sack of Balbriggan by the Black and Tans, old chap.     

The Ghost follows the clues left by McAra to a deserted stretch of beach and an old hermit (Eli Wallach) who reveals answers to questions the cops did not ask.

The clever use of GPS leads the Ghost to a confrontation with a snooty Professor that will expose the cozy relationship between academia, the CIA and the defense industry.  Why, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that.

However, the ultimate key to the mysteries is found in the lackluster manuscript.  The Ghost just needed to know how to look.

Adapting the novel to the screen presented unique problems.  It was told by the Ghost in a first person narrative, but Polanski and Harris devised a perfect ending.  You’ll get the picture.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *