Actually, the film's marketers seemed to think North American audiences might revolt if they paid for a movie called The Ghost, only to discover a complete absence of paranormal hi jinx, so we get to see a movie re-named The Ghost Writer. Catchy, no? The original title was brilliant, because it worked on at least three different levels; the altered title only works on one, and not very well at that.
Marketing blunder aside, Roman Polanski's recent film is a finely-tuned thriller, so long as you're able to get your thrills watching an almost-charming, almost-innocent doofus sink deeper into a pit of snakes. That would be Ewan McGregor, who finds exactly the right note to play as the unnamed title character, wearing a slightly foggy “What's this really about?” look of perplexity as he persists in questioning his way into further peril. The snakes would be Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams, playing the roles of a recently retired couple from the British PMO who need someone to apply a little shine to the former Prime Minister's dodgy legacy.
I was perched on the edge of my seat, even though Polanski is scrupulously faithful to the book by Robert Harris. My wife, who hasn't read the book, said the ending didn't come as any surprise at all, but that that didn't matter because the energy of the narrative consisted entirely in watching this man admit himself into the claustrophobic existential Hell of modern politics. The climax might not be surprising (or plausible, really) but the larger conclusion remains deeply unsettling: we pretty much get the politicians we deserve. This film is terrifically depressing fun.