This is a political thriller about a unnamed ghost writer (played by Ewan McGregor) who is assigned to write the memoir of a controversial former British Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). I was drawn to this film mainly because of the great reviews that it was getting when it came out. I was also interested in seeing a Roman Polanski film, because up to this point, I haven’t watched any of his films before.
The screenplay is a three act structure told in chronological order. The story only follows The Ghost. The only part of the film that he isn’t in is the very beginning, where we see how the first ghost writer, Mike McAra died. His car is shown to be empty, and his body gets washed up on shore. This story is also a narrative driven one. While we follow the main character of The Ghost through out this journey, the story is told very objectively. We just see the events happen, we watch the drama unfold, but we never get a strong sense of how this story is effecting The Ghost and how he is personally dealing with all of the problems that he being is faced with.
The Ghost himself, is a very intriguing character. We know very little about him, just that he is an excellent at his job and that he had a former relationship that didn’t go well, that’s it. His main focus is in the story becomes not to write Lang’s memoir, but instead to find the truth behind the death of Mike McAra. The story moves forward only because of this goal. The Ghost begins to look around where he shouldn’t look around, he takes a couple of mysterious trips in order to find out more about McAra. In one scene, he decides to randomly go on a bike ride outside the Lang house. There he meets an old man (Eli Wallach) who basically tells The Ghost that McAra was probably murdered. He starts asking questions. Right before Adam Lang is killed, The Ghost confronts him with the fact that McAra was murdered. Like a detective, The Ghost tries to solve McAra’s mysterious death. It is through his actions and dialogue only, that the story moves forward.
A scene in The Ghost Writer that taught me an important lesson is when The Ghost goes to Paul Emmit’s (Tom Wilkinson) house. All we know of Paul Emmit is that he is just an old friend of Adam Lang, but Mike McAra found that there is a stronger connection between the two. On the night that McAra was killed, he was actually trying to go meet Paul Emmit. The scene starts off fine, with Paul Emmit being very courteous to The Ghost, but after some questions, Emmit begins to get uncomfortable, and he asks The Ghost to leave. The fact that we know so little about Paul Emmit, is the reason why this scene is so great. Just like The Ghost, we want to know how Paul Emmit is connect to Adam Lang. The fact that Emmit becomes irritated, and angry, we feel that The Ghost is getting into some serious danger. We sense that Emmit is hiding something, but we don’t know what. This is a great example of where “less is more.”
Now finally, the ending. I found the conclusion of this film to be excellent. The Ghost ends up solving the whole mystery (Ruth Lang, Adam Lang’s wife, has strong CIA connections, through Paul Emmit) and after he reveals this information to her, The Ghost runs outside and presumable gets run over and killed (off screen). All we see is the pages of the memoir get blown away, scattered across the whole street. It is a bit of a strange, and anti-climatic scene, because our hero has failed to get this information out. However, upon further thinking, I feel that this was bound to happen. The Ghost became aware of too much information so it kind of was a matter of time before he was killed. Too bad though.