The Good Liar review: a thriller that feels rarer than it should

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That rarest of films: a new thriller, with leads over 70, and on wide release – here’s our review of The Good Liar.

It’s staggering just how unusual The Good Liar feels. It’s a mainstream film with two lead actors over 70. They’re not ill or dying, they’re not off to start up a hotel or learn valuable life lessons about getting old. Instead, Dame Helen Mirren and Sir Ian McKellen are the two main players in a fun thriller that’s better the less you know about it. And what a joy it is to see the pair at work. Both are in playful, tip-top form here. He’s Roy, a conman who meets Mirren’s Betty. On one hand, there’s a playful, slow-burn romance forming. On the other, he’s trying to relieve her of her cash.

Director Bill Condon – working from a script by Jeffrey Hatcher, which in turn adapts the novel by Nicholas Searle – plays the long game himself. He takes his time, gives his actors space, keeps his shots long and lets us slowly absorb what’s going on. It’d be remiss to call it a strict two-hander, as there’s excellent support from Jim Carter and Russell Tovey. But the purest joy in the film is watching McKellen and Mirren on screen. No fuss, no gimmicks, just quality acting with the space to explore their two characters.

It’s almost a shame every time the plot pops in to shimmy things along a bit, especially towards the end as the explanations begin to ramp up. Not because the story’s not interesting – I found it happily engaging – but rather the build is so delicious. Explaining plot strands is inevitably a little less interesting than the two gently jabbing and working each other out.

I really like the film a lot. It feels like mid-budget thrillers anyway are an endangered species on the big screen, yet alone such a confident, well-shot piece of work as this. I would caution to steer clear of the marketing campaign if you can: the colder you see the film the better. But that aside, this absorbing, hugely entertaining thriller is very much worth seeking out and savouring on the big screen.

More like this, please.

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