When the original “ghost writer” responsible for the autobiography of an ex British Prime Minister Adam Lang dies in mysterious circumstances a replacement is called in. The guy called in to “punch up” the memoirs is played by Ewan McGregor, this new ghost is an experienced writer who is known for working effectively and most importantly swiftly, as recent events have created a lot of interest in Lang.
Pierce Brosnan takes some time off from campaigning to save the environment to play Lang – because he’s worth it – though basically he is providing a thinly veiled Tony Blair replica. “The Ghost” (that’s all he’s ever called) arrives at Lang’s headquarters just as news of a BIG story are revealed, and the offices and Lang are subject to even more security – and scrutiny – than usual.
Ghost’s initial read through of the top secret manuscript provokes merely yawns and he immediately realises that this will be a bigger ask than initially thought, especially when the deadline is fastracked to capitalise on the publicity.
As the media closes in eager for any tidbit of info Ghost is asked to move into Lang’s own estate in the room of the ex-ghost. In the pressure cooker environment of the inner sanctum Ghost has greater access but is still kept on the outer initially while the accusations are handled and spun, as the allegations involve war crimes – specifically illegal torture – the stakes are high, as are the tensions between Lang and his wife.
Lang and his wife of many years apparently met decades earlier in university before Lang even developed political aspirations, it is clear though that even though he still asks for and listens to, her advice, he seems closer to his personal assistant (Kim Cattrall – finally in a role where it doesn’t matter that she is well into her 50s), and the wife / potential “other woman” dynamic is well utilised.
When Lang ultimately decides to face the music and goes to the US to clear his name, taking his assistant and leaving the missus, Ghost finds information that enflames his interest (and other organs), and other developments drag him further into proceedings…
Brosnan’s role as the ex PM is essentially an extended cameo, and in fact there are many smaller roles filled with fine actors… and James Belushi, although in fairness he is OK once you get past the “hey that’s James Belushi in a real movie!” factor. Other actors include Timothy Hutton, Tom Wilkinson and Olivia Williams.
The film evolves and of course there are quite a few twists and turns, with McGregor always interesting in the lead role. The film feels very much like it was based on a novel, although one I have never heard of, and until the finale I remained involved in proceedings.
Unfortunately the end sequence is a little hokey (albeit with a partially redeeming ending) and the eventual reveal is handled badly, but this is mostly an unwinding and involving thriller with some good plot development in a similar vein to Bourne or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, although with less action than either of those films.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. Solid if not spectacular. There are many better thrillers on the DVD racks at the moment – but a great many worse ones too.