I have always wondered how a blogger or a lyricist or a screenwriter feels, when their work is out in the public, but they get no credit for it. No, I am not talking about their work being plagiarised. I was referring tho the fact that, there are many anonymous artists who sell their work to better known artists; those works get publicised and win accoldaes. But the original artist only gets his renumeration, maybe paid by the hour, and manages to keep the kitchen fire burning. How does it feel to be a ghost-painter or a ghost-lyricist or a ghost writer, in this case!
The movie, of course, is not about that. Far from it, the movie is a fantastic political thriller. The protagonist, Ewan McGregor, agrees to ghost-write an autobiography of the ex-PM of UK. Adam Lang, the ex-PM played by Pierce Brosnan, is in the process of getting his autobiography published. But his manuscript needs some work to be done, to make it presentable and interesting.
Adam Lang did have a ghost-writer, Mike McAra, but he was found dead, one fine morning. Lang has led an interesting life and his political career has been marked by some very unusual decisions taken during office. And that’s what needs to be captured before people lose interest in him; and so the novel has to be out within 4 weeks. Its more of a financial gain that we are talking about. What gives McGreggor an edge is the fact that he is not politically active, so he can unravel a few facts about Lang whoch could interest the readers. Step-in, McGreggor, who agrees to ghost-write it in 4 weeks for an amount of 10 million dollars, not knowing that his predecessor was actually killed.
McGreggor reaches the secluded whereabouts of Langs residence, somewhere on east coast on USA, and is shown around by his beautiful secretary Amelia with whom Lang shares a special camaraderie of over 8 years. So, Ewan begins the homework by interviewing Lang and asking him about his passion and how he landed into politics. It was a well known fact that Lang was a Cambridge student and much intersted in dramatics. Then, how did politics happen to him!
These questions are too uncomfortable for Lang, as he does not want to discuss that. All he wants his ghost-writer to capture is Lang – the politician, and not Lang – the dramatist. Anyways, McGreggor’s curiosity gets the better of him. He starts snooping around the house and even tries to take the manuscript out of the tightly secured room so he can write in leisure.
But his efforts all go in vain. And as McGreggor finishes reading the manuscript, he realises that there is way too much work to be done in 4 weeks. And Lang’s mood swings and his strained relationship with his wife was not helping McGreggor. He was not sure why Lang and his wife, Ruth, could not get along with each other, but he was too scared to ask Lang.
He slowly gets to know Mrs.Lang, who makes him feel really comfortable. She is more of a reluctant speaker and less of an outgoing person. But what strikes McGreggor about her, is the insecurities that she faces. It almost seems like they are a normal couple where the wife complains about the hubby’s beautiful secretary always being by his side. And she isn’t getting much attention or the love and affection that she deserves.
Things start moving quickly as McGreggor moves into the room where his predecessor was put-up. And here he finds some very incriminating photographs and artifacts that paint a totally different picture of Lang. It becomes more important than ever, to disclose Lang’s past even as he is accused of siding with America on the handover of suspected terrorists to USA; while he was in office. The pressure from the human rights activists mount over Lang as they want him to be tried in the court for war crimes. Lang decides to fly across the Pacific to douse the fire.
This gives McGreggor the right opportunity to do some investigation/research. But he is caught in a spot of bother as he goes about his detection work and the timelines press on. Its a movie that keeps you on the edge of the seat as he takes the SUV to interview some of the people mentioned in Lang’s manuscript. He endangers his own life knowing very well that if and when the book is out, he would get no credit for it. Maybe a small footnote or a mention somewhere, but not the credit of co-writing it.
Any movie on politics is fraught with danger of getting too boring or too involved in people rather than events. But this movie is evenly balanced as it discusses people and events together. It takes us through Lang’s life without getting stuck on details or over-emphasizing on minor issues. The writers have done a wonderful job to keep the screenplay tight and the dialogues crisp. The movie does slow down a bit, in the middle portion, but soon picks up pace again.
The director of the movie, Roman Polanski, has handled the movie with very firm grip. He does not let it slip even for a moment. The emotional moments and the sobbing is not overdone, and the suspense is maintained throughout. We are always with the ghost-writer and never lose track of the purpose of the movie. Its to the director’s credit that he has extracted excellent performances from everyone.
Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGreggor are mature actors, nevertheless, they need to be told what is to be done. And that, they do very well. Brosnan’s outrage as well his romanticsim is very natural. Lang’s affection for his secretary and ignorance of his wife, comes across a fine character sketch of the man that Brosnan portrays. So, is Ewan’s fear of the unknown and his sense of urgency. We feel it for every moment, how his life is in danger.
The book does get published finally, but at what cost is to be seen. And wait to see how McGreggor is rewarded for his work. He leads an existence of no consequence, and the movie shows what happens when people try to unveil what’s behind the curtains. A ghost writer lives in anonymity, forever.
This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez