Tony Blair should look on the bright side. At least he’s being portrayed by Pierce Brosnan. Yes, he’s also being portrayed as an adulterous war criminal who’s a pawn of the United States—but that hair!
In fairness, Brosnan is not playing Tony Blair. He’s playing former British Prime Minister Adam Lang, whose similarities to Blair are strictly intentional. Ewan McGregor plays The Ghost, a man famous for ghostwriting zippy autobiographies. When the aid who was helping Lang pen his memoirs dies in a mysterious drowning, the Ghost is brought in to finish the job.
In Lang’s inner sanctum—the ex-Prime Minister is holed up in a coastal property somewhere near Massachusetts—the Ghost meets Lang’s sullen wife (Olivia Williams) and his fiercely loyal (maybe too loyal) personal assistant Amelia (Kim Cattrall). He also happens to arrive exactly at the time when the news of Lang’s alleged war crimes (handing over terror suspects to the CIA for torture) are exposed.
And the Ghost might be in danger. Almost immediately after accepting the job, he is mugged. Later, a mysterious and slightly menacing British man approaches him at a bar. Soon cars are following him. Is writing Adam Lang’s memoirs hazardous to one’s health?
McGregor is great as a decent (but hardly righteous) man who doesn’t want to get embroiled in the mystery of Lang’s crimes—and most certainly doesn’t want to get involved in Lang’s personal affairs—but just can’t help himself. Especially when the clues are everywhere—in one case, a programmed GPS system practically drives him to a key discovery.
American audiences may not care that much about taking down Blair and his wife, but director Roman Polanski also throws in a little George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy for good measure. And besides, America has a key role in this narrative—not just in terms of location, but as major string-pullers in an international conspiracy. Sweet!
Polanski—the film was completed shortly before he was arrested in Switzerland for long-standing sex charges—has helmed a taut and gripping thriller that actually respects the viewer’s intelligence. Wow. I’d forgotten what one of those felt like.