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First Look: The Good Liar

It’s not often that a new release at the cinema stars an 80-year-old leading man and a 74-year-old leading lady. The Good Liar, an upcoming British crime drama from Warner Brothers, is set to buck that trend when it hits big screens in mid-November.

Sir Ian McKellen stars as the eponymous Roy Courtnay, a whip smart and experienced con artist who decides to fleece wealthy widow Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren) of her rather sizeable inheritance. Things, as they so often do, go awry when the grifter begins to develop genuine feelings for his mark. Making his rip-off-and-run mission much trickier than he’d originally planned.

And that’s all before he discovers that there’s much more to his beau than meets the eye…

The new movie also stars Years and Years‘ Russell Tovey as Betty’s concerned grandson and Downton Abbey‘s Jim Carter as Vincent, a pal and accomplice of Roy’s.

The film is based on the popular and highly acclaimed novel by spook-turned-writer Nicholas Searle. The Good Liar was Searle’s debut novel and was something of a hit as one of 2016’s most read and best-loved works of fiction. Since its success, Searle has written and published two more novels, A Fatal Game and A Traitor in the Family.

Swindlers have long been an excellent source of thrills n’ spills for writers, with Irene Adler in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels and Tom Ripley in Patricia Highsmith’s work providing some of the most noteworthy examples. Whether or not the movie version of The Good Liar will match some of the better Holmes adaptations or Anthony Minghella’s tremendous 1999 version of The Talented Mr Ripley remains to be seen.

Here’s the trailer…

‘You bloody bet I’m going to take it all.’

The advanced years of the central characters is unusual and one of the most intriguing things about both the book and its adaptation. It’s something that certainly attracted the film’s director Bill Condon – an experienced helmsman and Academy Award-winning screenwriter – to the project.

‘That’s what was a real turn on for me here,’ he says. ‘They’re both really, really crackerjack roles and these are actors with a lifetime’s worth of experience and wisdom, so letting them play, and then play opposite each other… My God.’

‘Later on, I got to know the author, a first-time author who’d been in the British Foreign Service, and he admitted that he’d written it with Michael Caine and Judi Dench in mind. He’d started several years ago so, in a way, they’re half a generation older than the leads we wound up with and very different, as you can imagine. But it was so much fun to be a part of that and to watch them go at it.’

Condon has directed Sir Ian McKellan before in the acclaimed films Gods & Monsters, based on the fictionalised final days of film director James Whale, and Mr Holmes, based on Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel about Sherlock Holmes, A Slight Trick of the Mind.

The director continues: ‘What also attracted me to it was reading the novel and I came across one scene about two thirds of the way through that had such a wonderful twist in it, and I thought, “I’d like to make this and see this with an audience: this moment, this scene.” And it has indeed been fun – we’ve done a few previews and seen that scene work in the way that I hoped it would when I read it.’

‘I was drawn to two incredibly juicy parts, a movie that has a real kick and surprising relevance – which is hard to talk about until you see it – and something in the Hitchcock mold. I’ve tried various classic Hollywood genres, and this is a flat-out thriller/mystery with some humour, which is something I hadn’t tried and was eager to do.’

With cinemas currently dominated by huge budget superhero films, kids’ flicks, sequels and endless unnecessary remakes, we’re looking forward to The Good Liar. Sure, it could misfire – but from what we’ve heard and seen so far, it looks like a clever, almost play-like release that’s squarely aimed at more mature and discerning audiences.

We can’t wait. And that’s no lie.

The Good Liar is released in UK Cinemas on 8 November 2019. Loved the book? Can’t wait to see the film? Let us know in the comments below!

Steve Charnock

Steve Charnock is a freelance writer who writes news stories, features, articles, reviews and lists. But *always* forgets to write his mum a birthday card.

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