Movie ReviewsThe Good Liar – A Performance-Driven Thriller (Early Review)

Keith NoakesNovember 14, 201979/100
Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Russell Tovey
Jeffrey Hatcher
Bill Condon
14A (Canada), R (United States)
Running Time
109 minutes
Release Date
November 15th, 2019
Overall Score
Rating Summary
The Good Liar sees the sheer power of Helen Mirren and Ian McKellan take a rather pedestrian thriller and bring it to life in a way that only they can.

Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen are some of our finest actors working today so much so that they could do just about anything and it would still be entertaining. The Good Liar, a film based on the book of the same name by Nicholas Searle, appears to put this to the test but Mirren and McKellen were certainly both up to the task here and were easily the best part. It’s just a shame that the film around them wasn’t quite to their level in that it wasn’t new by any means and felt unsure about the kind of film it wanted to be. However in the end, this fact is easily to overlook as they were both still so captivating to watch. For those who happened to have read the book, the story may not come as too much of a surprise (though those who have seen any film before won’t be overly surprised either).

The Good Liar follows Roy Courtnay (McKellen), a veteran con man who has found his next target in a wealthy widow named Betty McLeish (Mirren) for whom he intended to take everything she had. After finding each other via online dating (as was implied by the film’s many trailers), he would use everything in his bag of tricks upon her and it all seemed to work. Already infatuated with Courtnay, McLeish appeared to be in for the ride. Knowing what we knew about him, it was only a matter of time until Courtnay’s con would somehow fall apart but it was exciting to watch how far it would go. It wasn’t smooth sailing, however, as Courtnay faced his own detractors, none bigger than McLeish’s grandson Steven (Tovey).

Suffice it to say that The Good Liar was at its best whenever Courtnay and McLeish were on screen together as all other subplots paled in comparison. Meanwhile, the story would take some time to get going as we are left waiting for that inevitable moment to happen while pretty much dismissing everything else. Courtnay may be a despicable person on paper who was still easy to root for for whatever reason and McLeish was a little too willing to go along with everything against reason but there was clearly more going on. Appearances would be a big theme for the film therefore things were not necessarily as they seemed. Though this apparent shift itself may not have been unexpected, what it would entail was certainly not.

The final third of The Good Liar would be where the film was at its best. While some buildup was needed to get there, it would have been nice to stay there a little longer. But what a buildup it was! The film as a whole considered itself as some sort of deeper thriller but these elements weren’t nearly as strong with the exception of the great score which both epic and suspenseful. At the end of the day, the film would not have worked at all if not for the excellent performances of Mirren and McKellen as McLeish and Courtnay respectively. In order to fully enjoy their performances, one must watch the film as Mirren was definitely not the naive woman that the trailer may or may not have portrayed her to be while McKellen looked to be having the time of his life as a charming yet slippery con man who was somehow easy to root for.

Overall, The Good Liar may be a type of thriller that’s been done countless times before but Mirren and McKellan definitely class it up with their star power alone and make it well worth the price of admission.

*still courtesy of Warner Bros.*

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