Director: Roman Polanski.
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall.
WHEN is Tony Blair not really Tony Blair? When it's in The Ghost Writer, Roman Polanski's neatly honed political intriguer featuring a Blair-ish Brosnan as a former British prime minister accused of human rights violations.
McGregor is the nameless scribe roped into ghost write ex-PM Adam Lang's memoirs, getting the gig just hours before the press gets hold of the former leader's involvement in the CIA torture of terror suspects.
Soon the ghost writer is drawn into Lang's strange post-PM world - the unhappy wife, the omnipresent minders, the media frenzy, and the mysterious death of the writer's predecessor.
Polanski's subtle atmosphere ensures the solid if unexceptional plot ticks along with a quiet tension, aided by the setting of an isolated island where Lang resides in a windswept mansion (that looks like a fortress).
McGregor is natural and believable as the nameless ghost, carrying the movie as Brosnan's note-perfect not-Blair flits in and out of the action. The great thing about Brosnan's performance is that his character's shadow looms over the entire film, yet Brosnan never resorts to chewing the scenery or becoming a Blair charicature.
Which brings us, in a roundabout way, back to the opening question. This is undoubtedly pointing its finger at Blair - the names have just been changed and there's been some fictionalisation for dramatic purposes - but while the left-wing leanings and anti-Iraq War sentiments are on show, they're well-balanced in the end. Lang gets to defend himself and it's shown there are loonies and dangerous people on both sides of politics.
The end will leave some unsatisfied however, but the film must at least be commended for its boldness and punchy delivery, and while much of the activity is quiet throughout the plot, when The Ghost Writer eventually makes a bang, you'll certainly know about it.
The downsides are few. Cattrall's mangling of the English accent grates at times (but her performance is certainly not bad) and the way the story plays out is workman-like except for a few late left-turns.
This may not be on quite on the level of that political intrigue benchmark All The President's Men, but it has a certain charm and style to it that shows Polanski's film-making skills can't even be contained by house arrest.