Roman Polanski‘s political suspense thriller The Ghost Writer retains the old school style of intrigues and suspense with high style camera works. In other words, everyone speaks with their eyes, and everyone is a suspect. At one point, I even thought that the cook was a potential killer, Dep (Soogi Kang).
A good story is one that gives you the carrot, but not showing you the string attached to it, so one must follow to capture and finally savour it, which usually comes at the very end with a fact that has been overlooked, or misinterpreted. And to increase the intensity, why not cast famous British/Scottish/Welsh actors to heighten the auditory senses to make it even more proper and political: Brits can be all that bad! can’t they?
The story ties loosely to the relationship between US and Britain during the Iraq war, or more to the point, between British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and US President, George W. Bush: how deep it really was.
The Ghost (Ewan McGregor), whose name has never been disclosed, is hired to be the ghostwriter of resigned British Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), for his autobiography. After landing the cushy well-paid re-write jig, Ghost, flies out to a remote island in the Atlantic coast from London. His predecessor, Mike McCra, was found dead a week prior washed up on the beach, assuming an overboard from the ferry after binge drinking. A gated estate is where Adam Lang and his team reside, with wife, Ruth Lang (Olivia Williams). Seemingly, where Mike was found was along the same coast-line where the estate backs up against.
Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall) is Lang’s executive assistant, and perhaps more, cause she is with him 24/7. The estate is highly secured and guards everywhere. There already exists a manuscript, so Ghost’s job is really to finish it and polish it to be ready for publication.
During the first interview, it is apparent that Lang is more an actor than a politician, and in fact, it was Ruth who brought him into politics. Ruth’s name graces pages, and chapters in the memoirs. The apparent bait! There is no explanation why Lang chose to live on American soil? until later we will know that he is now under investigation by the International Criminal Court for the authorization of alleged inhuman tortures in the Iraq war. The allegation is brought to light by his former Minister of Defense, Richard Rycart (Robert Pugh), who Lang despises.
I guess, the only way for us to get to the bottom of the intrigues is that Ghost must turn rouge, i.e., from editorial to investigative. While Lang flies out to DC for image repairs, Ghost starts his investigations of the death of McCra, who taped an envelope of photos and 70’s Labour Party member card to the flip side of a socks-drawer. Those pictures went back to Lang’s Cambridge theater’s days, where spotted a Paul Emmett (Tom Wilkinson), an ex-CIA, who is now a renounced professor and philanthropist. McCra died two hours after talking to Emmett.
Who is Ruth? perhaps, a frustrated wife who can’t go back home to London, and knowing her husband may be cheating on him with his E.A.? But funny is that all along, she has been super enamored with Ghost? has it been love at first sight? or maybe it is just close-leash tactic… she learned way back?! Or shall I also add, second tactic is must also sleep with enemy!
As I say, the old style of suspense is to hold on to your theory(-ies) until proven wrong! (Are you sure that it is a carrot attached to the string?) So pick up the clues as you watch, there will be a lot of noise and unnecessary but essential distractions along the way. Don’t worry there is an end to the story, but perhaps, it is the beginnings that we must pay attention?!