Directed and Produced by Bill Condon
November 15, 2019
A con artist targets a lonely widow he meets online but soon realizes he has bitten off more than he bargained for in his effort to get what he believes will be the score of a lifetime.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The execution of the story after the initial setup is great. The initial setup to get everything rolling though is my biggest issue with the whole story though. Per how everything is explained at the end of the film, everything relies a great deal on coincidence and just dumb luck. So many things need to go just right otherwise the plan falls apart. Fortunately they do not dwell too much on those issues and thus it will not overshadow your experience until the end of the film when they remind you of them out of necessity.
I saw a little of the twist coming from the start but how everything fit together in the end of the film and the totality of what was all going on blew me away. It was so much more than I could infer but it all made sense. Not to give too much away but the focus is revenge for a very vial deed on the truly unrepentant con artist Roy.
Helen Mirren is an amazing talent. That is established scientific fact. I think the person that did it won an award a few years back. I cannot say I have seen everything she has done but everything I have seen she has been fantastic in. She creates characters rather than playing herself in every role as other better paid actors do. This movie is no different. She is great as the vulnerable and lonely appearing widowed Betty. Along the way with just her performance she leaves little crumbs to let you know something more is going on, but it is all not given away until the big reveal.
Ian McKellen is great as con man Roy Courtnay. As charming and sweet as the character appears, he is a malevolent thing who is not above destroying lives or even murder at one point to protect his lies and ill-gotten money. His words are silky smooth and McKellen is very charming as the man with secrets.
The Good Liar is steadily paced. It is not frenetic or crazy but rather it is a slow build to the finale. The tension grows as Roy realizes his easy score may not be as easy as he thought while wrapping up a second scheme. You get a sense that Roy is becoming a bit concerned but his greed will not let him cut and run.
McKellen and Mirren carry this film on their shoulders. There really are no other central characters in the movie. There are some supporting characters such as Betty’s nephew Steven (Russell Tovey) and Roy’s partner in crime Vincent (Jim Carter who is best known for Downton Abbey). Other than them, nobody takes up too much time in the film. It is focus on the interactions of Roy and Betty.
The story is a series of misdirections not only by McKellen to deflect his true intentions but by the director to obscure what is going on. It works fantastically. You get an idea of what MIGHT be going on, but nothing is easy to discern and they save a few surprises for the very end.
It becomes clear as the story progresses that what is going on here is a game of cat and mouse though even Roy does not get quite why it is nor is the audience let in on the particulars. You think it is the more predictable twist of two con people conning each other and to some extent that is true, but it is a little more than that.
Even though we know what Roy did during the course of the film as well as in his past you do feel kind of sorry for him by the end of the film. After the big reveal of everything Roy gets the crap beat out of him but some people he had screwed over in the beginning of the film and is left debilitated with a stroke. He is left a husk of himself unable to effectively even take a drink.
Too many films today rely on flash and cool visuals and forget to do things that make your mind work. What we got here is a taught and engaging thriller. Director Bill Condon created an exciting film with very little in the way of action. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and anticipating what came next. This is a film driven by the characters and the story.
The Good Liar is a great thriller that will keep you watching until the end. If you have not seen it go for it. I say watch it!