The Good Liar
Taking the fear of meeting a stranger online to the max, The Good Liar is a coolly crafted thriller that is steady in its twists until it eventually floors the gas and hurls over the finishing line.
Adapted from by Nicholas Searle’s novel of the same name, the movie opens with a thoroughly recognisable scene that could be ripped out of the New York Times’s Modern Love column. Having met on Distinction Dating, Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) and Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren) are on their first date. They’ve grown accustomed to the routine of dates mismatching the delusional with the hopeless. Yet in actual fact, these two are about to embark on the rocky course of a trenchant thriller. A seemingly foolish widower looking for companionship, Roy sees Betty as the perfect target for his next scheme. He’s a fraudster extraordinaire, heartlessly ready to lure Betty aware from her life’s savings. Director Bill Condon’s keen eye for reflections lets his structured cinematography echo his characters’ duplicitousness.
Without McKellen and Mirren, the simple dialogue would perhaps not have been imbued with so much tension. McKellen mischievously oscillates between the well-to-do, grandfatherly figure spewing a steady stream of idiosyncratic folksy mannerisms and the callous criminal ready to swindle a buck away from anyone in his path. The pitch could have been The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel meets Kingsman. There is genuine joy in the patchwork of scenes, which switch between delicate courtship and the deeds of Roy, the philandering con man whose wood-panelled boardrooms conceal his insatiable thirst for money and power. Yet, it’s hard to deny that Mirren was gypped out of her equal share of fun.
The Good Liar’s steaming engine eventually runs empty. It’s a wonderfully set up thriller that is disappointingly concluded. The final act rushes back and forth from pre- to post-war Germany in a final face-off, cramming too much in. A few clues laced in the earlier scenes would have helped the audience have fun playing detective.
The Good Liar is released nationwide on 8th November 2019.
Watch the trailer for The Good Liar here: