Monday, April 12, 2010

"The Ghost Writer": The Editor Who Knew Too Much


Regardless of what one thinks of the director's legal affairs, Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" is a superb political thriller. The ghost writer (Ewan McGregor), never named, is hired to edit the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). The previous ghost writer had turned up dead by the ocean at Martha's Vineyard (the rainy and overcast main setting, though much of the film was shot in Germany)–an immediate clue that this is one writing assignment that carries risks way beyond typos.

The ghost writer works at the book publisher's house, also occupied by Lang, along with the latter's brainy, beautiful and bitter wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) and staff member and mistress Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall). The ghost writer, a hack with a fondness for alcohol, becomes something of an investigative reporter as he discovers that the supposedly affable Lang's claims about his life are dubious.

Lang is also accused back home of sending an alleged terrorist to the C.I.A, which in turn sends him to a country that practices torture–a procedure, "extraordinary rendition," that became well known during the Bush-Cheney years. There's a parallel here between Lang and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who steadfastly supported America's ill-conceived war in Iraq. Protestors outside the publisher's compound and at home in England call for Lang to stand trial and the ghost writer becomes swept up in circumstances seemingly beyond his control, just as the viewer is carried along by the film's relentless suspense.

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