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Film: The Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer, also known in the UK as The Ghost, is a 2010 political thriller based on a novel by Robert Harris.

An unremarkable ghost-writer has landed a lucrative contract to redact the memoirs of Adam Lang, the former UK Prime Minister (a Captain Ersatz of Tony Blair). After dominating British politics for years, Lang has retired with his wife to the USA. Soon, Adam Lang gets embroiled in a major scandal with international ramifications that reveals how far he was ready to go in order to nurture the UK's "special relationship" with the USA. But before this controversy has started, before even he has closed the deal with the publisher, the ghost-writer gets unmistakable signs that the turgid draft he is tasked to put into shape inexplicably constitutes highly sensitive material.

Not to be confused with the children's television series Ghostwriter. See this article on That Other Wiki for an explanation about the word "ghostwriter."


This film provides examples of:

  • Americans Are Morons: The original book is called The Ghost. The movie is called The Ghost in most regions. Apparently, Americans won't get that the movie is not a supernatural thriller, and that "the ghost" is a metaphor.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: It's not directly phrased as a question, but the sentiment is very much present. When confronted with allegations of torturing terror suspects, Lang responds with a Motive Rant that if he had his way, there would be two lines at the airport; one where nobody's civil rights had been violated in any way, and another where the government had done everything it could to keep the people safe, and then they could see which line Rycart (who had been condemning the civil rights abuses) would put his kids in. See Strawman Has a Point on the YMMV tab.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: It is strongly implied at the end that the writer is hit by a car, possibly even on purpose as the car actually accelerates, though what happens after that is anyone's guess.
  • California Doubling: A portion of the film is set in Massachusetts, but the scenes were filmed in Germany.
  • Captain Ersatz: Adam Lang to Tony Blair.
    • Ruth Lang, in a less obvious way, to Cherie Blair.
    • Richard Rycart to Robin Cook.
    • Condoleeza Rice to the movie's U.S. Secretary of State.
    • The Real Life contractor Halliburton to the fictional Hatherton.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The car.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The guy at the hotel.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: The first half of this is upheld.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Ruth Lang is a CIA agent who influenced her previously apolitical husband into becoming Prime Minister and making decisions beneficial to the U.S.
  • Evil Inc.: Hatherton.
  • Face Death with Dignity: After killing Lang, the sniper (wearing his dead son's desert camouflage) drops his rifle and snaps to attention, allowing himself to be killed by security.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The car accident. The last we see of our hero is him walking off screen onto a road. The camera stays in place, and seconds later a car follows. A screech of tires, a loud thud, and the papers of the manuscript start flying...
  • GPS Evidence: An actual GPS device.
  • Hero Antagonist: Richard Rycart.
  • The Hero Dies: The eponymous character himself at the end.
  • Hollywood New England: Used sparingly.
  • Hope Spot: The two guys that are following the Ghost to kill him reach the ferry ten seconds too late. No, wait...
    • Our ghost giving Ruth a toast after figuring out who she is, and walking away victoriously. The feeling only lasts for about 10 secs. Sure is awesome though.
  • Idiot Ball: That's right, ghost writer, let The Mole know that you know her secret, even though you know she can and will have you killed for knowing it. And certainly don't tell anyone else.
    • He could have easily called someone on his cell phone off screen. And there is the possibility he didn't die either...
    • Mike was killed by the CIA, they wouldn't have risked killing him in England.
    • Better dealt with in the novel, but yeah, for the movie, very Idiot Ball.
  • Incredibly Obvious Tail: The black car after the ghost meets with Paul Emmette.
  • Jerkass: The ghost himself.
  • Karma Houdini: Adam Lang.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: What the ghostwriter believes happened to his predecessor.
    • And what apparently happened to someone who may have witnessed the crime.
    • Also possibly happens to him too in the finale.
  • The Mole: Ruth, Adam Lang's wife.
  • Most Writers Are Writers
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • The US secretary of state in the film looks a lot like Condoleezza Rice.
    • One of the scenes in the novel is a publishers' meeting where The Ghost gets the contract to write Adam Lang's memoirs. One of those present rants about how two of the UK's best selling novelists - "that ex-army psycho and the actress with the tits" - are ghost written. That ex-army psycho would be thriller writer Andy McNab, and the actress with the tits would be Katie Price, better known as Page Three Stunna Jordan.
  • No Name Given: We are never told the name of the protagonist. It actually becomes Fridge Brilliance.
  • The Oner: The paper passing from hand to hand until it reaches Ruth.
  • Parenting the Husband: A consistent plot point is how Adam Lang has stopped taking advice from his wife. This becomes very important by the end of the film.
  • Punny Name: Lang.
  • Secret Society Group Picture: Used with Everyone Went to School Together to help the Ghost connect the dots.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Our ghost protagonist gets killed offscreen without accomplishing anything.
    • The book has less of a Downer Ending and is more ambiguous: The ghost figures out the mole's identity at his home, and gives it to his girlfriend (who doesn't appear in the film) in case he's killed.
  • Stealth Pun: (while holding up a USB thumb drive) "We can get 100 books on here, and it can be copied in a flash!"
  • Third Act Stupidity: See Idiot Ball.
  • Too Dumb to Live: So your predecessor in the job died in very suspicious circumstances, and the only witness has suffered an 'accident' that left her in a coma. After finding this out, the ghost writer not only doesn't run a very long way away, but decides to start shagging the main suspect's wife. Who is also his employer's wife.
  • The War on Terror: The cause of Adam Lang's scandal.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Engaged in by both Langs, although Mrs. Lang appears to be motivated by revenge rather than any genuine attraction.

Get Him to the GreekFilms of the 2010sGoing the Distance

alternative title(s): The Ghost Writer
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