The Ghost Writer, which I saw last night, is a very good "thriller." It's co-written and directed by Roman Polanski and therefore inevitably dwells upon the menace that lurks beneath quotidian events. Once again, Polanski offers us a naif who gradually comes to realize that the world is under the control of dark, implacable, omnipresent forces of evil. In The Ghost Writer, it's the CIA -- a most convenient bugbear. Just as soon as the unnamed ghost writer cracks the mystery, he's run down and killed in the street by a mysteriously summoned agency vehicle. Ewan McGregor is convincing as the naive ghost, Jim Broadbent is wonderfully malevolent as the string-puller behind the scenes, and Olivia Williams steals the show as the intelligent angry betrayed wife the English PM. But it's pure Polanski from start to finish.
In Shakespeare's Macbeth, the reign of the usurping tyrant is preceded and succeeded by the benign and holy kings Duncan and Malcolm. In Polanski's 1977 Macbeth (in my opinion one of the few great Shakespeare movies), there's an appended anti-Shakespearean coda: Donalbain (Malcolm's younger brother) goes off to engage the witches. Polanski suggests that evil is not anomalous to the reign of Macbeth but eternal and, so to speak, normal. The witches who control men's fates are the medieval Scotland analogues of the CIA.
In Polanski's best film, Chinatown, J. J. Gittes is the naif who gradually comes to discover that villainous Noah Cross controls all of Los Angeles. Semi-demonic Noah takes bullet but like the witches and the CIA, he can't be killed. In the original Robert Towne screenplay, Evelyn Mulwray had escaped with her daughter/sister, but Polanski altered the ending to emphasize Noah Cross's unassailable power.
And then there's Rosemary's Baby (witches) and The Pianist (Nazis).
Polanski's point of view cannot be a surprise to anyone who is familiar with the story of his life.