Starring: Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren, Russell Tovey
Director: Bill Condon
Running Time: 109 mins
The Good Liar is a British film about an aging confidence trickster who, after meeting a wealthy and vulnerable older woman, sets to work on taking everything she has while she opens her life and heart to him.
As enjoyable a popcorn thriller as The Good Liar is, it’s one of those films that, for the most part, is just impossible to get your head around. Not in the sense that it’s complex, but when it comes to its main mysteries, twists and big reveals, it’s painfully unconvincing, and actually comes off as rather silly. Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren’s charismatic lead turns work hard to keep the film as engaging as possible, and director Bill Condon at least gives some exciting energy to affairs, but it’s far from the best thriller you’ll come across.
Let’s start on the bright side, though, with the two lead performances from Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren that, while hardly representing the greatest work of each of their careers, are still a delight to watch throughout, and easily the best part of The Good Liar.
The pair have effortless charisma and chemistry throughout, and as the film pulls you along on its story of a heartless conman taking an innocent woman for everything she has, the thoroughly entertaining lead performances up the theatre of the whole affair to the max, with McKellen’s dastardly turn playing brilliantly against Mirren’s seemingly innocent and vulnerable character.
As a result, The Good Liar, for all its narrative faults, does have a good sense of theatre, and thanks to those performances, it’s still a moderately exciting watch at its best moments. What’s more, director Bill Condon’s work goes a long way to giving the film that atmosphere of theatre, by bringing a brand of deliciously over-the-top melodrama and mystery to the table throughout.
Particularly as the film moves into its second act, where some of its more outlandish twists lie, Condon’s directing is a huge part of why it’s actually an enjoyable watch, and with a booming score playing out alongside cinematography and setting that mirror a classic Hitchcock thriller, there are times when The Good Liar seems to have more than enough to entertain as a great thriller.
However, as is so often the case, the narrative really lets the rest of the film down, and that’s for a variety of reasons. Firstly, for what should be a great Hitchockian thriller, the story is painfully meandering at times, as once it seems like you have a clear idea of the various players and main ideas of the film, it randomly decides to uproot all of that and move to an almost completely unrelated story somewhere else.
Secondly, the twists are unconvincing, underwhelming and for the most part frankly ludicrous. Not only does the film go overboard with its twists upon twists, but rather than offering up a satisfying tying-up of everything that’s come before, the main reveals seem to come entirely out of the blue, tacking on an entirely different story intended to explain what you’ve seen, but instead just becoming distracted in exactly that.
And finally, worst of all, the movie gives itself away in the very first scene. I wouldn’t wish to spoil the film just in case you don’t notice, but the way that the scenario and characters are established in the pre-opening credits sequence seems to suggest something totally different to how the rest of the film will play out. When it doesn’t play out as it at first seems, one of the reveals from that very first scene suddenly becomes the film’s main twist, only that it’s not only being hidden badly, but flat-out revealed right at the start.
As a result, The Good Liar really falls flat when it comes to providing an exciting, surprising thriller. It’s still an enjoyable, energetic watch at times, and thanks to good directing and two great lead performances, there is some good fun to be had with the film, but it’s let down hugely by it story, which not only struggles to prove convincing or genuinely exciting, but ruins its own big twists and reveals right at the start. So, that’s why I’m giving The Good Liar a 6.9 overall.