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The Ghost Writer, also known in the UK as The Ghost, is a 2010 political thriller based on a novel by Robert Harris, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, and Kim Cattrall.

An unremarkable ghostwriter (McGregor) has landed a lucrative contract to redact the memoirs of Adam Lang (Brosnan), the former UK Prime Minister (based on Tony Blair). After dominating British politics for years, Lang has retired to the United States with his wife Ruth (Williams). 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 ghostwriter gets unmistakable signs that the turgid draft he is tasked to put into shape inexplicably constitutes highly sensitive material.

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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". Also, not related with the Australian psychological horror novel.


This film provides examples of:

  • And You Thought It Was Real: When The Ghost tries to open the memoir file, the alarm goes off. It happens to be a security drill.
  • 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.
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  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible: Both Adam and Emmett are reluctant to talk about their years at Cambridge; since that was when Emmett recruited Adam as an agent.
  • 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.
  • The Cameo: Eli Wallach as the old man who tells the Ghost about the neighbor who saw flashlights on the beach the night Mike McAra died... and subsequently fell down the stairs and went into a coma.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The car left on the ferry by Mike McAra.
    • As well as the phrase "the beginnings". It's said several times throughout the movie, until the Ghost finally realizes its significance at the end.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The guy at the hotel.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Every time the TV is on, it delivers relevant information for the plot (for example the fact that the British government support the ICJ investigation of the extraordinary renditions).
  • Conspiracy Thriller: The protagonist discovers a conspiracy and soon people try to kill him because he knows too much.
  • Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: The Ghost manages to find out virtually all of the secrets over the course of the film. Though he refuses to run when he realizes what is occurring. In the end, he presumably dies.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: The first half of this is upheld. In fact the CIA are depicted as so Evil that they even push little old ladies down stairs.
  • 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.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: In the final scene, The Ghost is hit by an accelerating car without any apparent purpose.
  • 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.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Halliburton/KBR to Hatherton.
  • 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...
  • Government Conspiracy: A former British Prime Minister is a CIA asset. The CIA murders those who know too much.
  • GPS Evidence: An actual GPS device.
  • He Knows Too Much: The protagonist, his predecessor, and an unfortunate witness.
  • 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...
      • What difference would calling someone have made? He has no evidence other than the manuscript for his claims, given both the previous ghost and Rycart have died. That is in and of itself not really evidence anyone would pay attention to, and anyway, the pages are blown away after he is hit, so even if he survives, he won't have that
    • 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.
  • Implied Death Threat: When the Ghost brings up McAra's death to Emmett, Emmett does not seems to be surprised. He says that death by drowning "seems agonizing". His farewell words are that "you might end up deeper in the woods and may never be seen again".
  • Incredibly Obvious Tail: The black car after the Ghost meets with Paul Emmett.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Nearly every time the Ghost can catch a breath from the intrigue, he drinks. Ruth also needs to get drunk.
  • Jerkass: The Ghost himself.
  • Karma Houdini: Adam Lang. While he is killed, he gets treated as a hero and a martyr.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: What the Ghost 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 Man Behind the Man: In fact the woman behind the man; Ruth.
  • The Mistress: Amelia Bly.
  • The Mole: Ruth, Adam Lang's wife.
  • Most Writers Are Writers
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Adam Lang is based on Tony Blair (former British Prime Minister, involved in a war in Iraq, friend of the United States).
    • Ruth Lang, in a less obvious way, to Cherie Blair.
    • Richard Rycart to Robin Cook (they look like each other, they both have disagreement with the Prime Minister about foreign policy).
    • The U.S. Secretary of State in the film looks a lot like Condoleezza Rice.
  • No Name Given: The eponymous ghostwriter, identified only as "The Ghost".
  • Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: Adam Lang considers to get help from the UK cabinet. Ruth advices him to call in his lawyer instead. Which is clearly in her interest, since she is The Mole.
  • 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.
  • Protest By Obstruction: The protesters against Lang's war crimes.
  • Punny Name: Lang.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The story is based on the extraordinary rendition program of the Bush administration.
  • Run for the Border: The Langs live in the United States; officially for fundraising, but actually because they are outside the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court... and because they are protected by the CIA.
  • Scenery Porn: The seaside mansion.
  • 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.
      • No, the book has just as much of a Downer Ending: The Ghost figures out the mole's identity at his home, and gives the book itself to his girlfriend (who doesn't appear in the film) in case he's killed. Given that the book is indeed published (it is what you are reading!) it is evident that The Ghost has been killed, just as in the movie.
  • Sleeping with the Boss's Wife: The Ghost sleeps with Mrs. Lang, the wife of his employer.
  • Stealth Pun: (while holding up a USB thumb drive) "We can get 100 books on here, and it can be copied in a flash!"
  • Stupid Evil: The villains. The evidence the titular ghost writer uncovers is pretty tenuous. It's the villains' own efforts to deny the evidence and kill anyone who uncovers it that convinces both the Ghost and his predecessor that they're really on to something. If the villains had just decided to brazen it out with "yeah, so we know each other. So what?" there would be no movie.
    • In particular, the hitmen who follow him to the ferry, clearly intending to kill him as they did his predecessor. It never occurred to them that a SECOND ghostwriter dying in the same manner as the first would be bound to raise suspicion?
      • Lampshaded by Rycart, when the Ghost expresses reluctance to get on the plane with Lang:
        He can't drown two ghost writers, for God's sake. You're not kittens.
  • Take That!: 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 ghostwritten. 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.
  • 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.
  • Wedding Ring Removal: Amelia does not wear her ring, claiming it's so big it trips off alarms when it goes through airport security. Subverted, in that we're led to believe that she's going to become a romantic interest for the Ghost. Instead, she turns out to be Lang's mistress, while the Ghost ends up having sex with Mrs. Lang.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Engaged in by both Langs, although Mrs. Lang appears to be motivated by revenge rather than any genuine attraction.

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