The Good Liar (2019)
9/10
Pleasantly surprising thriller
28 November 2019
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren) is a widowed lady, looking for companionship. She registers with an online dating site, and meets up with Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) who draws her in with his charm and wit. It all seems amiable enough, but Betty's son Stephen (Russell Tovay) isn't convinced, and does some digging around to get some dirt on Roy. His suspicions are justified, however, as Roy is in fact a conman, eager to swindle Betty out of a large fortune. But as events unfold, it builds to a shocking revelation, where everything is not as it seems.

Living, as we are, in the WOKE age, with 'the patriarchy' being challenged, and a recent slew of flops, including Terminator: Dark Fate and even the new Charlie's Angels film, being blamed on a feminist agenda being shoved down our throats, there is another, slightly less militant minority group that seem to be having their day more on this side of the pond, that of the older, more mature actors. With this, and last year's King of Thieves (which, in fairness, was depicting a real life event!) we clearly have directors that have the confidence to showcase older performers in an industry that worships at the altar of youth. Here, two stalwart, big name older actors are handled by an older director, in the shape of Bill Condon, who allows things to slowly unravel, in contrast to the torrent of fast cuts and frenetic editing we're used to today. The result is one of the most effective and pleasantly surprising films I've seen in ages.

Condon develops an effective air of mystery and intrigue, before delivering a shattering final revelation, a genuinely surprising twist that you won't see coming, and which he's cleverly set in 2009, ten years before the film's been released, to make the timeline's add up. Performance's wise, McKellen opens with his trademark genteel, softly spoken act, before unnervingly transforming into the far from gentleman crook, who mutters 'f' and 'c' words with casual disdain. Mirren, meanwhile, matches him like for like as an outwardly affable older lady, who underneath will stomach no bullsh!t.

It's a reflection of the times that it's taken a film about two older people to produce one of the most gripping and enjoyable films I've seen in a while, something that could have been a bland Sunday afternoon affair, turned into something far more gritty and dynamic. ****
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