I missed Roman Polanski’s latest offering “The Ghost Writer” (or simply “The Ghost”) when it was screened in Danish cinemas but caught up thanks to the DVD release. “The Ghost Writer” earned a certain notoriety due to the similarities of one of the main characters (Adam Lang, played by Marge Simpson’s wettest dream, Pierce Brosnan) with former UK prime minister Tony Blair, just as critics have pointed out the parallels between Lang’s and Polanski’s problems with the courts.
That said, “The Ghost Writer” is more an effective classical thriller than a new “Chinatown” or The Political Movie of 2010. If you basically don’t subscribe to the conspiracy theory view of politics, the movie doesn’t tell you anything new about UK politics in general and Tony Blair’s decision to support the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration. And if you are already convinced that Blair has sinister motives and that the Little Guy always gets caught in the dealings of the big and powerful – well, then there’s nothing new here as well.
So, the movie is extremely competent, has good actors and there are definitively worse ways to spend a couple of hours (you could be reading a run-of-the-mill Swedish crime novel, for instance), but after viewing it, I wondered if Polanski hadn’t spoiled the chance to make an even more interesting movie with Ruth Lang (played by Olivia Williams) as the central character. By now I’m probably not revealing a major secret by writing the Ms. Lang isn’t exactly what she originally appears to be: the bitter, neglected wife of a Very Important Man. Rather, she is the force driving the entire plot and I could imagine a very exciting piece of drama where Ms. Lang is actively trying to control the fall-out from her past and present activities.