When best selling novelist and ex-buddy of the Blairs, Robert Harris wrote The Ghost, it was undoubtedly Tony and Cherie that he had in mind, and this murky, gripping tale of politics, made into a movie by Roman Polanski, is remniscent of Hitchcock at his best. Director of Photography Pawel Edelman does a fantastic job, choosing a palette of steely blues, greys and dark silvers, to create a menacing, lowering mood from the first shot.
Ewan McGregor is The Ghost, hired to replace Mike, the original writer of the memoirs of ruthless, smoothy PM Adam Lang, (Pierce Brosnan all flashing teeth, narrowed eyes and bonhomie) , who supposedly died either by accident, or by committing suicide. Since Mike’s draft is unpublishable, Ewan is hired to do a rewrite in a month, and he has misgivings about the job from the start. He is flown to meet Lang at Martha’s Vineyard, just as Adam is accused of war crimes. Adam Lang, his wife Ruth and Adam’s aide, presumably mistress (Kim Cattrell, bursting out of a twinset with cutglass accent and a wiggle) are holed up in a modernistic house by the beach, and Ewan has to coax some sparkle out of Adam to juice up the plodding, uninspired work compiled by the first writer. Lang is a divisive figure at home, and as Ewan says “It must be hard to be so hated….” adding quickly at the furious look on Lang’s face “and so loved”.
Ewan McGregor is convincing as the cockney, slightly spivvy, best selling writer, who starts to research his subject and doesn’t like what he finds. The more he digs, the murkier it gets, and the tension ratchets up until the final shocking showdown.
I thought it was enjoyable, and certainly as seamy, ruthless and surprising as anything we have read in our newspapers recently. Polanski’s fingerprints are all over this moody, stylish story, and the book is great as well. If anything, Harris’s ending is even more dramatic that that of the movie. Interview with Robert Harris is here on what it was like to work with Polanski (he was arrested near the end of the film).