Acting alumni Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen lead new mystery thriller ‘The Good Liar’, an adaptation of Nicholas Searle’s novel of the same name. Bill Condon, who most recently directed Disney’s live action remake, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is at the film’s helm directing a screenplay written by Jeffrey Hatcher. The film follows Betty (Mirren) and Roy (McKellen) as they embark on a relationship after meeting thanks to an online dating service, but people aren’t always like their profiles now are they?
The film begins with a certain intrigue to its characters, albeit the narrative unfolds at slower pace than may be desirable but the film never becomes boring. There are elements of the mystery that are entertaining and as the audience are let in on more and more of the secrets the film does become more engaging, helping to quicken the pace that was somewhat lagging in the films beginning. However, the narrative as a whole really is a mess. It’s instantly predictable where the story is heading and what the final conclusion will be, of course it’s impossible to predict the details but other than this ‘The Good Liar’ is fairly by the numbers. It’s the details where things become more problematic though. There is a thrilling story at this film’s core but it just isn’t portrayed in this manner. Some of the most specific plot details are confusing and Condon does little to make things clear for viewers. This issue is most prevalent in the film’s final act. Instead of achieving the reaction it wants from the audience it will leave them underwhelmed. There isn’t enough set up to the crucial moments of the finale and as a result what should be a gripping climax to this thriller ends up being one large section of underwhelming exposition.
‘The Good Liar’ at least boasts two seasoned performers at its forefront, who both make the film consistently watchable. However, not even performers of Mirren and McKellen’s calibre can elevate the poor storytelling exhibited here. There’s even a strong supporting cast featuring good turns from Downtown Abbey’s Jim Carter and the always brillaint Russell Tovey. They contribute further in making the film bearable and it owes a lot to the strength of this cast as these characters and story portrayed by a less experienced collection of performers could have made for a real disaster. Both Mirren and McKellen do get to camp things up at points, and this is fun to watch but the tone of the film never fully commits to this style. Instead it hopes to deliver a more serious mystery thriller whilst simply coming across as clunky and unconvincing.
Ultimately the direction and writing squander any chance of telling the potentially gripping narrative of ‘The Good Liar’ in a clear and coherent manner. The cast try their best to make the most of this muddled screenplay but even their solid performances can’t save the film from collapsing under the weight of it’s own poorly constructed conclusion.
Written by Hamish Calvert
STAR RATING –★★
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Thanks to Movie House Cinemas for screening access