A pairing long overdue

Will Ferris

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The Good Liar (15, 110 Minutes)

History is dominated by legends. Some stars matched together have delivered sensational performances – just look at the likes of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra or Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca.

On the flip side, you’re faced with the horror of Madonna and Sean Penn in Shanghai Surprise (yikes!). But now, we’ve been given an early Christmas gift. A pairing like no other and incredibly overdue.

The Good Liar kicks off with vicious crook Roy Courtnay (Sir Ian McKellen) preparing to swindle rich widow Betty (Dame Helen Mirren) after meeting her on the over 60s equivalent of Tinder.

Their ‘relationship’ begins to progress, but as the past worms its way to the surface, Roy’s feelings for Betty bring his whole dirty rotten scheme into considerable doubt.

The film is a success for two reasons. Jeffrey Hatcher’s script, a wonderfully witty piece, is an open playground for McKellen and Mirren to play on. They’re both experts in this game, bouncing off each other like a shuttlecock and racket. It really is a joy to see them side by side, and really presents some wonderful thoughts on what could have been if their paths had crossed sooner.

They’ve certainly the charm of Beatrice and Benedick if their Shakespeare days weren’t over, and it wouldn’t be much ado about nothing (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Impressively, director Bill Condon has managed to release himself from the shackles of a pale, disappointing conclusion to The Twilight Saga (not that its predecessors were any better) and craft a film that seems like a cross between the work of Alfred Hitchcock and Woody Allen.

Condon is previously known for his writing credits on (jazz hands) Chicago and for directing the most recent live action Beauty and the Beast – a rather fitting metaphor for Betty and Roy.

There are also some nice appearances from Russel Tovey, as a protective grandson with a pessimistic outlook on Mirren’s love life, and Jim Carter playing Roy’s partner in crime – a long way from Downton.

A remarkably well performed dinner scene between Tovey, Mirren and McKellen is a significant highlight of the whole piece. Bravo to that.

The film displays the force of love in all its beauty and, in some cases, wickedness.

A very solid job with profound performances from both leading actors.

RATING: 8/10