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#OnTheBigScreen: The Good Liar, Knives Out and 21 Bridges

Films opening at South African cinemas, this week, include: The Good Liar; Knives Out; 21 Bridges; Playing With Fire; and NT Live's Hansard.

The Good Liar

Consummate con man Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) has set his sights on his latest mark: the recently widowed Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren), worth millions. And Roy means to take it all.

From their very first meeting, Roy begins plying Betty with his tried and true manipulations, and Betty, who seems quite taken with him, is soon going along for the ride.

But this time, what should have been a simple swindle escalates into a cat-and-mouse game with the ultimate stakes – revealing more insidious deceptions that will take them both through a minefield of danger, intrigue and betrayal.

“It’s a thriller with a Hitchcockian feel, weaving in elements of mystery, crime and a human drama. And at its heart are two beautifully complex characters played by two of the greatest actors of all time, at the top of their form, who can keep you guessing like a classic whodunnit till the very end. It’s all wickedly fun,” says Bill Condon, who directs from a screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher, based on the widely acclaimed novel by Nicholas Searle.

Read more.

Knives Out

It’s one of the most iconic set-ups in all of moviedom: a well-heeled if motley crew of secret-hiding, badly-behaved, entirely suspicious-seeming family members converge at a swanky mansion in the wake of a sudden death, setting a brain-twisting, cat-and-mouse mystery afoot.

The family friction comes to a head on the eve of world-famed mystery writer Harlan Thrombey’s 85th birthday. By morning, he is dead. With a wound to the neck and knife in hand, the optics are of an open-and-shut suicide.

But detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), aka “the last of the gentleman sleuths”, deduces foul play. As he and the local law begin questioning the Thrombey family and staff, it quickly becomes clear that not one suspect has a story that even begins to clear their name.

As their grievances are filed to a point, they will bicker and jockey right up until the final shocking reveal, when all of their assumptions about themselves and one another will be upended.

In writer-director Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, this timeless scenario gets pierced through by a lacerating wit and a razor-sharp take on 21st-century social mores and family life. Johnson re-envisions the darkly fun-loving, mega-cast whodunit by doing it in tune with our tumultuous times.

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21 Bridges

An intriguing mix of spectacle, propulsive and non-stop action, an epic “ticking clock” crime story, the explosive story unfolds during a single night, after a drug heist-gone-horribly-wrong results in the deaths of eight cops.

It follows NYPD detective Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) who leads a citywide manhunt for a pair of cop killers. Davis’s relentless pursuit also uncovers a massive conspiracy, and lines become blurred on whom he is pursuing – and who is after him.

When the search intensifies, extreme measures are taken to prevent the killers from escaping Manhattan, as Davis directs the authorities to close all 21 bridges to prevent any entry or exit from the iconic island.

Brian Kirk directs from a script written by Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan.

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Playing With Fire

In Redding, California, a group of firefighters known as smokejumpers are about to meet their match. Smokejumpers – highly trained men and women who provide the initial attack on wildland fires by parachuting into remote and rugged terrain – are the elite among their field.

When straight-laced fire superintendent Jake Carson (John Cena) and his elite team of expert firefighters (Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo and Tyler Mane) come to the rescue of three siblings (Brianna Hildebrand, Christian Convery and Finley Rose Slater) in the path of an encroaching wildfire, they quickly realise that no amount of training could prepare them for their most challenging job yet – babysitters.

Unable to locate the children’s parents, the firefighters have their lives, jobs and even their fire depot turned upside down and quickly learn that kids – much like fires – are wild and unpredictable.

John Cena for one is certain audiences will respond to the movie: “The story of the movie is going to make you think, the comedy of the movie is going to make you laugh, and the heart of the movie is going to make you cry.”

Directed by Andy Fickman from a screenplay by Dan Ewen and Matthew Lieberman.

NT Live: Hansard

Hansard is set on a summer’s morning in 1988. Tory politician Robin Hesketh (Alex Jennings) has returned home to the idyllic Cotswold house he shares with his wife of 30 years, Diana (Lindsay Duncan).

But all is not as blissful as it seems. Diana has a stinking hangover, a fox is destroying the garden and secrets are being dug up all over the place. As the day draws on, what starts as gentle ribbing and the familiar rhythms of marital sparring quickly turn to blood-sport.

A brand-new play by Simon Woods, Hansard is directed by Simon Godwin. It will screen on 30 November and 1, 4 and 5 December 2019 at Cinema Nouveau theatres in Rosebank, Brooklyn, Gateway Commercial and the V&A Waterfront.

Read more about the latest and upcoming film releases.

About Daniel Dercksen

Daniel Dercksen has been a contributor for Lifestyle since 2012. As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years, teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa and internationally the past 22 years. Visit

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