Say what you will about Roman Polanski as a person, but the man can still direct a film that will keep audiences both riveted and laughing at the same time. The Ghost Writer, his first film since The Pianist, is a nail-biting political thriller that refuses to show its cards until the last scene, and keeps the tension going the whole time.
Ewen McGregor plays a British ghost writer (a writer who helps people write their autobiographies) who gets assigned to assist former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) finish his highly anticipated memoirs after Lang's previous writer washes up on a beach. Like in Rosemary's Baby, nothing is what it seems, and as the Ghost - as he refers to himself - works his way through Lang's political career, unhappy wife (Olivia Williams) and media that is out for blood, he finds himself caught in a web of lies, omissions, betrayals and murder.
McGregor gives a brilliant performance as a man both frightened and intrigued by his work, and Brosnan is brilliantly cast as a charming but untrustworthy politician who appears to be loosely based on Tony Blair. Williams also deserves credit for humanly portraying a wife at a loss in a no-win situation. And special props go to Eli Wallach, who gives the movie's creepiest performance.
No fair spoiling an ending that has not one, but two surprises before the credits roll, but Polanski keeps audiences guessing until the end. Using the same flair for taking the normal and twisting it into something unsettling that made Rosemary's Baby a hit, he keeps the action in The Ghost Writer flowing, never giving the audience a chance to get too comfortable. He also manages to produce laughs at situations that wouldn't normally be funny, but given the high-cost context, are nervously humorous.
In an age of trumped-up, unbelievable political thrillers, don't miss an opportunity to see a movie that actually delivers the goods. It'll haunt you.
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