Sunday, August 22, 2010

"The Ghost Writer" and "The CIA in Academia"...

Warning: This is a plot spoiler review of Roman Polanksi's "The Ghost Writer"

Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" (Brosnan, McGregor,Williams,Cattrall, Belushi,Wilkinson and others) is now available as a rental at Film is Truth in Bellingham, WA. This is a thrilling, tantalizing, odd-angled political piece that is a something of a hybrid of Hitchcock's Torn Curtain (Newman, Andrews), The Thomas Crown Affair (Brosnan, Russo), and Polanksi's own brilliant 1999 effort The Ninth Gate (Depp, Olin). Film critics will recognize in this film certain structures and devices that create significant political drama. They will also recognize historical cinematic devices of both Hitchcock and Polanski. But something about this Polanski effort, based on Robert Harris' novel "The Ghost", is politically very daring. Perhaps very Bourne in its suppositions.

The "MacGuffin" of the film appears to be the printed autobiography of "Adam Lang". "Adam Lang" is a thinly veiled characterization of ex British Prime Minister Tony Blair played with muscularity by Pierce Brosnan. However,  the virtual "MacGuffin" or perhaps the  "deus ex machina" of the movie is the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency in academia. The presence of the Central Intelligence Agency in institutions of higher learning was once a much discussed topic (1,2,3,4) due to certain revelations from the Church Committee and others during the '60s and '70s.

How involved is the Central Intelligence Agency today in university life?  Commentators note that ex CIA directorates migrate openly from "the company" to university life these days, but there remains precious little discussion about recruiting, propaganda, and intelligence gathering at Colleges and Universities during the last ten years. We have an interesting picture of the CIA's involvement in the business world due to the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson trial and book, but where do we find a comprehensive picture of the CIA's involvement in American and foreign universities?

Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" begs further answers to this question.  But be forewarned, as the university asset/professor (played with insidiousness by Tom Wilkinson) warns Ewan McGregor: "Do you know how to get out from here? Turn right toward the end of the driveway and head toward the street. Turn left and you will travel deeper into the forest where you may never be heard of again."

"The Ghost Writer". Don't miss it. Especially if you live on campus.

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