A seasoned ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) arrives at a big publisher's office in London where his aggressive agent has set up an important meeting. When he goes through a metal detector, he asks: "Who are you expecting to bomb you?" The ghostwriter lands the lucrative job which is to rewrite the memoir of former English Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) in a month's time. On his way home from this triumph, he is mugged. Then he and the world discover via the evening news that a former cabinet minister has accused Lang of illegally seizing suspected terrorists in Pakistan and delivering them to the CIA for torture. On his way to the ex-PMs retreat in a seaside town on the East Coast of the United States, the ghostwriter takes the same ferry the previous ghostwriter had taken before he was found dead by drowning.
Lang lives in isolation from the rest of the world in a large compound staffed by armed security guards. His wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) is a very smart and articulate woman who suspects that her husband is having an affair with his attractive assistant Amelia (Kim Cattrall). The ghostwriter reads the autobiography and finds it to be a "cure for insomnia." He is determined to get Lang to open up and reveal a more exciting and authentic view of his life and work. But outside events and interruptions keep intruding on his work: the ex-Prime Minister is to be investigated for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague; the press and protestors of all stripes show up in the seaside town, and Ruth turns to him for consolation while her husband is in Washington D.C. picking up the support of the President and other powerful supporters of a vigorous war against terrorists.
The Ghost Writer is a superb political thriller directed by Roman Polanski (The Pianist) that is tense, well-acted, and enormously entertaining. It is based on a controversial novel by Robert Harris which led many to surmise that Lang was none other than Tony Blair. The movie does a credible job conveying the quest of the ghostwriter to find out the truth about Lang's career, the rich and powerful persons behind his hard-line positions on terrorism, and the facts pertaining to his predecessor's drowning.
Ewan McGregor is convincing as the diligent ghostwriter who finds himself over his head in a compelling mix of mysteries and dangers. Brosnan is just right as the arrogant Lang, and Williams impresses as his controlling wife who has her own stack of secrets. Jim Belushi as the publisher, Eli Wallach as an old man with an interesting take on the previous ghostwriter's death, and Tom Wilkenson as a sinister figure from Lang's past all deliver pitch-perfect performances.
Special features on the DVD include an interview with director Roman Polanski; The Ghost Writer: Fiction or Reality?; and the cast of The Ghost Writer.