Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan star in this political thriller in which McGregor plays the unnamed ghost writer hired to turn the memoirs of Adam Lang, a very Blair-like former British PM (Brosnan) who took the UK into controversial wars, into a bestseller after a former Downing Street aide previously helping him is found dead.
As the Ghost starts his assignment Lang’s world is rocked when it emerges he’s to face a war crimes trial after a former Cabinet Minister provides evidence of Lang’s illegal use of British Special Forces in rendition and torture.
What follows is a fairly tense thriller as the Ghost discovers that Lang’s past may not be all it seems and embarks on a trail through his earliest days thanks to clues handily left him his deceased predecessor.
A lot of belief needs suspending at this point as key clues are left laying around, witnesses to past deeds are handily located within a short drive away and the man who starts the film with no interest in politics and at one point stresses he’s not an investigative journalist suddenly embarks on a trawl through the murkier side of Lang’s past.
I’ve not read the original Robert Harris novel on which the film is based so can’t say whether these niggles are present in the book or are the result of its translation to the big screen but the overall story feels a little anaemic so my hunch is that the story’s been pared down for the big screen.
Like too many movies, the key to enjoying this (assuming you’re not simply a Blair-hater looking for satisfaction by proxy) is to park your brain in neutral and go with the ride.
Both McGregor and Brosnan put in good performance, though at times McGregor appears to affecting a rather odd accent and speech pattern. Olivia Williams does a good turn as Lang’s long suffering wife but Kim Cattrell is bewilderingly underused as Lang’s aide and probable mistress.
At a shade over two hours the film’s a tad long and is guilty of being overly ponderous at times, Roman Polanski’s direction is fine but it’s not his best work – it lacks the atmosphere and energy of his vastly superior Frantic for example – and I don’t see the masterpiece some critics have raved about.
Overall The Ghost is an enjoyable, better than average, topical and fairly authentic feeling political thriller with some decent performances and a few good gags but despite the hype it’s a long way from being the best the genre can offer.
The Ghost is released nationwide on April 16th