The Good Liar is a crime thriller, based on the book of the same name. The plot sees Roy Courtnay, played by Ian McKellen, a con man, start a relationship with Betty McLeish, played by Helen Mirren; all as a ploy to rob her blind.
Two things before we get into the review, firstly there will be spoilers here, to talk about this film and give my thoughts I need to discuss the twist. Secondly, I haven’t read the book the film adapts.
Straight from the off you know that there is more to Helen Mirren’s character then there appears to be, she is clearly not the clueless old women we are supposed to believe she is. So when it turns out that she was playing Roy all along, literally no one the audience will be surprised.
However, though the twist is obvious, the incredibly dark context behind it isn’t. The reason why Betty turns on Roy is because he isn’t actually Roy Courtnay at all, and Betty McLeish isn’t who she claims to be either. Roy swapped identities with a British soldier during the final days of World War 2 after said soldier was killed hunting down a Nazi war criminal. Roy’s real name is Hans Taub, a German man who had raped Betty, really name Lili, shortly before the war. The whole events of the film had been a setup to pay back Hans/Roy for the sins of his past.
The twist works incredibly well in this context because it is so shocking and dark. The film up until this point had been relatively light and, so this twist greatly shifts the tone and ramps up the tension for the final stretch of the film. Russel Tovey’s Steven does this masterfully, Steven is the grandson of Mirren’s character and, we learn from the beginning that he is mistrustful of Roy. Then when he shows up on their Germany trip and takes them to an abandoned house, you know something is about to happen and, you’re gripped with suspense.
Mirren and McKellen both do fantastic jobs, they really masterfully lead this film showing why they’re both industry giants. McKellen especially is fantastic as he can go from a likeable old man to a harden bloodthirsty criminal in a split second, in what can only be described as a masterclass.
The Good Liar is a fantastic mystery film with a marvellous sense of suspense. Both of its leads are electric, and it’s nice to see elder actors headlining films. If you’re looking for a mystery that will keep you guessing right up till the end then look no further than this. The obviousness that Mirren’s character isn’t all shes meant to be, does somewhat ruin the surprise, so I can’t give this film top marks.
Reviewed by Luke