Andrew Herbison, Contributor.
This is a film about liars. I know. Shocker. Also spoiler (not really).
Speaking of spoilers, this one is very easy to spoil. Which makes it rather hard to talk about in any depth. Any in depth discussion would ruin the first time experience for those who haven’t seen it. And you should see it, I think. But if that isn’t enough to make you go see it… Spoilers ahead.
The basic premise of the film is two older people meet online. Some lies are thrown about. Perhaps even for nefarious purposes (but, of course, I can neither confirm nor deny). Since lying is an integral part of the film, I suppose I should give my opinion on that. There are two types of lies in this film. There are the lies that you see coming from a mile away, and then there are the other ones. The ones you didn’t see coming, that you would never expect to see coming. The ones that make you truly wonder what the hell is going to happen next. The ones that, when revealed, have you going, “Oh. Didn’t think it would be that.” Those lies make the movie good. They also show you just how invested you are in the characters.
This of course brings me to the bit where I tell you how great Ian McKellen is. And also how great Helen Mirren is. Because they are great. But you knew that already. So really I should talk about their characters… and risk spoiling more. Spoiler alert (again). So Ian McKellen’s character is lying. Shocker. He’s a con artist. He cons people. And since this is Ian McKellen, it makes it all the better. You might even want him to win. Then there’s Helen Mirren, who plays the mark. She’ll have you wanting him to lose. Despite the fact McKellen is the protagonist, you wouldn’t say he’s the outright star. Neither one of these two brilliant actors stands above the other. Even more than that they’re rarely in direct conflict with each other. They act more like a duo, really. So where’s the obstacle to the con? Russell Tovey plays Mirren’s suspicious grandson, serving as the main antagonist to McKellen’s conman. The pairing of McKellen and Mirren often makes it so that Tovey’s character is pitted against the two of them rather than just McKellen. In contrast, Jim Carter plays McKellen’s partner in crime. To my mind, he acts as a reminder of the true nature of the story, of the long con, and so a symbol of the encroaching threat to Mirren’s character. To conclude, it’s a pretty strong cast. They’re all good.
As a whole, this is a very simple film. A simple plot, a simple overarching theme of lies and deception. Once the film is over, you know what all the lies are, how they work, therefore all the mystery the film uses to charm you is gone. Even though it really works once around, it’s a good once. A good once made even better by a great cast. If what you’re looking for is a fairly standard con man movie with some really great twists and some fine acting, then go see it. You won’t be disappointed.