I love a good character thriller and “The Ghost Writer” is among the best kind. This movie mixes a murder mystery with a political mystery. The stakes are as high as they can get for almost all the characters. Roman Polanski, the director, weaves all this together so effortlessly. Paranoid thrillers are his bread and butter.
The story follows a man who is simply referred to as Ghost Writer in the credits. He is played by Ewan McGregor. He is an author who is hired to replace the recently deceased ghost writer for the former British Prime Minister Adam Lang played by Pierce Brosnan. The previous ghost writer apparently committed suicide but there are some lingering questions. Lang is putting out an autobiography but his publishers want the McGregor character to polish it up to ensure it is a best seller.
At the same time Lang is caught up in a political scandal that could see him in court for War crimes. McGregor is sent to Lang’s home in America. This is on an isolated island that is only accessible by air or by sea and seems to be constantly assaulted by stormy weather.
The McGregor character finds himself alone in Lang’s house through a lot of the movie. He uses this time alone to uncover some shady inconsistencies in Lang’s past that are connected to not only the previous Ghost Writer’s death, but larger, political conspiracies.
The film was written by Polanski and Robert Harris, based on the novel by Harris. Together they weave a fairly complex and emotional mystery. Movies like this are harder and harder to get made. There is more money to be made out of clichéd, conventional thrillers. Nobody seems to want to savour a story that is pushed by the personalities of the characters. “The Ghost Writer” is one that requires more then one viewing to drink it all in. It is one of the best movies of the year.