Based on the novel by Nicholas Searle, The Good Liar is a British crime thriller that tells the story about a long time con artist who through telling lies and manipulation is able to steal money from people.
Professional conman Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) meets lonely widow Betty Mcleish (Helen Mirren) through a dating website. The two go on several dates and soon enough Roy tricks Betty into staying at her house for an extended period of time, which will be enough time for him to earn her trust and try to convince her to sign over her life savings to him. Betty’s grandson Steven (Russell Tovey) doesn’t trust Roy for one second, so he decides to do some detective work to uncover Roy’s lies and to prove to Betty that he isn’t who he says he is. But seeing as Roy is good at what he does, he always has a lie to prove that he is innocence. What Roy doesn’t see coming is that Betty has told a few lies of her own, which will prove to be a roadblock on Roy’s plans.
To say that Sir Ian Mckellan and Dame Helen Mirren are good at acting would be the understatement of the century, but they do prove again in this film on why they are both such highly acclaimed actors. Ian Mckellen is brilliant as Roy. There are some really tense moments in the film where you think Roy will be figured out, but through some clever facial expressions you can Roy’s character transform from genuine panic in his face to assurance when he has thought of a new lie. The way that he tells his lie is with such passion, he even makes you, the audience, second guess and believe that he is telling the truth. On the flipside to that when he is in conman mode, McKellen’s portrayal of Roy is really evil. Roy doesn’t care what he has to do to make sure that his plan comes to fruition, so it was interesting to watch McKellen’s performance unfold, with so many levels to his acting, viewing McKellen in his element felt like an on-screen masterclass.
Helen Mirren also plays Betty, the innocent lonely widow character very well. There is a particular scene that stands out, where Betty’s grandson has uncovered some dirt on Roy, and with every answer that Roy gives Steven, Roy has a rebuttal. During the scene you can see Mirren’s character is visibly upset, because two of the most important men in her life are having an argument and cannot seem to get along. I think this performing of Mirren’s stands out to me the most, because of how convincing and genuinely upset she appeared during the entire exchange.
I believe that what helps show these emotions on-screen, is the fact that the director Bill Condon would show close-ups of the actors faces during pivotal parts of the story, which makes you believe what the character is going through at that precise moment. I would also like to acknowledge Russell Tovey who played Betty’s grandson, Steven. Tovey played the role of the worried and suspicious grandson excellently, but especially in the scenes where he is suspicious of Roy and is interrogating him about his past. Not only did I find his performance impressive, but I can only imagine how intimidating it would have been to work alongside two fantastic, legendary actors. Tovey really held his own.
With incredible action from both Mirren and McKellen, The Good Liar is a film that will have you on the edge of your seat and will keep you guessing right up until the very end as to who has the upper hand and who is actually manipulating. It is an absolute must to watch these two powerhouse actors do what they do best.
The Good Liar is in Australian cinemas now.