The Ghost Writer

Rated 4.0

It’s so frustrating to know that Roman Polanski makes great movies at least in part because he’s such a creep. But here it is: a classic-seeming new thriller with the recriminative gall also to be an inside joke about how we’ve let the real world turn into a Polanski movie. Ominous intrigue ensues when a nameless writer steps in for a mysteriously dead predecessor to massage the memoirs of an embattled, self-exiled former British prime minister. In a career-best performance, Pierce Brosnan stands in not just for Tony Blair (with a touch of Reagan) but also for the notoriously banished filmmaker himself. Olivia Williams also excels as his brilliant, tetchy Lady Macbeth-like wife, and Ewan McGregor’s promise is restored by his role as the appropriately apparitional cipher at the story’s core. Although adapted by the director and Robert Harris from Harris’ novel, the movie’s masterful control—from its elegantly foreboding opening to the mordant glee of a striking final shot—is pure Polanski.