A British ghostwriter is hired to finish writing the memoirs of a former prime minister after the previous writers’ body has been mysteriously found washed up on the beach. While ensconced in a luxurious beach house at Martha’s Vineyard, it is soon revealed that the prime minister is being accused of war crimes.
Ewan McGregor plays the ghost writer, who like in the 2007 book by Robert Harris, is nameless and simply referred to as The Ghost. The former British PM, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), is staying in New England while on a lecture circuit in the US. With him at the isolated home are Lang’s wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams), his assistant (and sometime mistress) Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall), assorted guards, secretaries, and housekeepers. The beautiful stark home with large windows overlooking the deserted beach feels claustrophobic with the grey, cloudy skies and harsh seas.
Lang’s former foreign minister (Robert Pugh) announces that Lang had knowledge of the kidnapping of four Pakistani terrorists that were delivered to the CIA for torture in which one of them died. The ghost finds himself in a front row seat to Lang’s team of lawyers and advisors as they hustle to put a spin on the story while news crews and helicopters descend upon the island. The ghost is unwillingly recruited to write statements for the press. Lang is outraged but he is the consummate politician - fit, handsome, with a self assured grin as he faces the angry protestors camped in front of the compound’s guarded gate. Lang and most of his people decide to gather in NYC, leaving behind Ruth and the ghost whose publisher has upped the deadline to a couple weeks to capitalize on the new headlines.
The ghost is working from a 600 page manuscript completed by his predecessor who had worked with Lang for many years. They keep the hardcopy locked in a safe and it can only be worked on in the house. The ghost, having read and edited most of it, can see no reason for all the security. He is suspicious of the former writers’ demise, especially after speaking with a local about someone seeing flashlights on the beach right before the body was found and the only witness being in a coma. He also finds a secret stash of photographs from Lang’s past as an actor while in college that leads him to a phone number and a professor that may have ties to the CIA.
Lang has an obvious Tony Blair slant with his foreign policies that are sympathetic to the US. There’s even hints of a major corporation with a name that sounds like Haliburton. The ghost is the person who does work that is never credited to his own name. He’s the everyman caught in an impossible situation. Ruth is intelligent and mousey next to the cool and classy Amelia. They both work together, despite Ruth’s knowledge of her husband’s infidelities, to support Lang in his role as a world leader. In the end, its Ruth’s advise to whom Lang relies. Olivia Williams really stands out in this role and practically steals the movie. Also, look for Jim Belushi as the bald publisher, and Eli Wallach as the old vineyard guy. (Review by Reesa Cruz Hawkins of Dallas Movie Screenings)