Monday, March 29, 2010
Skeletons in the closet and a ghost as a writer
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently sat before a committee defending his decision to involve British troops in the U.S.-led Iraq war.
At times during the questioning people became noticeably upset and voices were raised.
The new political thriller "The Ghost Writer" puts the fictional former British Prime Minister Adam Lang, played by Pierce Brosnan, in the position of being the target of an investigation into allegations of war crimes stemming from his involvement in the rendition and torture of suspected terrorists.
One of the many praises earned by director Roman Polanski, who adapted his novel into the screenplay, with Polanski, is the tapestry woven by a thriller with threads of recent world events and an artful handling of the genre.
As Polanski skillfully succeeded in movies like "Frantic," he creates a world in which it's not only unwise to trust most people, but potentially lethal. This is evidenced in the opening sequence which shows an empty vehicle on a ferry after the other cars are unloaded. The man who drove the car onto the ferry is next shown washed up on the beach. A writer reluctantly takes a meeting with a publishing company which is looking to replace the man who was working on Lange's memoirs. Ewan McGregor plays the writer with an almost sneering detachment from politics. He soon travels to Lang's waterfront property in the states and is given a copy of the manuscript containing the story of the Prime Minister's life, which is kept in a securely locked drawer.
As he arrives, the story of Lang's possible involvement escalates and the uncertainty regarding the extent of Lang's involvement in illegal activity provides much of the film's narrative enjoyment. Like any political figure of significance, Lang is a friend and hero to some and a vile, war-mongering murderer to others. Protesters who want him convicted rally outside the gates of his property and one even sets up camp outside similar to the protester Cindy Sheehan, who camped outside President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. This is one of several specific references to the Iraq war. The U.S. president in the film is not mentioned by name, but one character asks why the prime minister went and got himself mixed up with that fool in the White House.
To go into the specifics of the plot would be cheating the audience out of a great experience. Beyond providing an engrossing political mystery, “The Ghost Writer” immerses the audience in the world of a power figure whose decisions cost lives. It is an intelligent look at not only the toll it takes on the people of his country, but also his wife, who stands by him, but doesn’t always like the consequences of the life of a politician’s wife.
The public may never know the motivations of their politicians or the effect of their involvement in shadowy activities, and after watching “The Ghost Writer” viewers are uncertain of Lang’s motivations. This uncertainty does nothing to diminish the satisfying experience of the Prime Minister’s story.