Having your wife and unborn child murdered by the Manson family could make anyone go a little loco. But, drugging and raping a 13-year-old is more than a little loco. It's illegal. And, if you can't do the time, well then ... you shouldn't do the crime. Unless, of course, you can live out your days in Switzerland.
If you can forget that Roman Polanski is a fugitive from justice, you just may find yourself thinking that Ghost Writer is the first Oscar-caliber movie of 2010. It's as moody and atmospheric as the best Hitchcock thrillers, but the themes at play here have been ripped straight from today's headlines.
Pierce Brosnan plays Adam Lang, a Tony Blairesque ex-prime minister of Great Britain. Like Blair, Lang has a brilliant, well-educated wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams) who is an important behind-the-scenes player in national and international affairs. Lang has been collaborating on his memoirs with a ghost writer who turns up dead on a beach near the PM's secluded Martha's Vineyard home. (Was his drowning accidental? Suicide? Or, something more sinister?)
Ewan McGregor is perfect as the writer hired to finish the dead guy's manuscript. He soon realizes he's in over his head. And, while he's not interested in politics nor is he an investigative reporter, he quickly develops a sense for both.
The austere house is the stateside home to Lang and his wife as well as the former and current ghostwriters. But, it's anything but cozy. The house, straight out of Architectural Digest, becomes almost a character itself. There's tight security, an efficient staff (someone is constantly sweeping the back deck, which, on windswept Martha's Vineyard, is completely futile) and big picture windows from which a menacing sky is always visible.
Those gathering clouds do more than portend a storm. Lang is facing a political storm of his own and perhaps of his own making. He's recently been accused of being a war criminal. The allegations charge that he aided in shuttling suspected terrorists to countries where they could be tortured. They (and the PM) are flown by Hatherton aircraft. (Remind you of Halliburton? It's supposed to.)
Lang's efficient personal assistant (and mistress?) Amelia (Kim Cattrall) does all she can to protect him from the media. Her ice princess act here is so good, you forget that she's best-known for her work in the sub-par Sex and the City.
Everything about Ghost Writer is good. Polanski may be a criminal, but his artistic genius is undeniable.