The Two Faces of January

  • Film
  • Thrillers

The sight of a sweaty, drunken Viggo Mortensen – his suit crumpling in solidarity with the worry lines on his face – is increasingly horrific in this pleasingly old-fashioned, unhysterical 1960s-set thriller. It’s the directing debut of the screenwriter Hossein Amini (‘The Wings of the Dove’, ‘Drive’), and it has an unhurried, louche air about it that gives way to claustrophobia as it starts to get its clammy hands around your neck.

An adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1964 novel – and not entirely different in tone and spirit to ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ – the film whips us back to a sunny, simpler southern Europe of Americans abroad, gentle cons and near-nostalgic film plots that turn on passports, news print and unwelcome private detectives.

Opening in Athens, the film gives us Chester (Mortensen) and Colette (Kirsten Dunst), a stylish, wealthy married couple who encounter a young American tour guide and petty conman, Rydal (Oscar Isaac), just as Chester’s hidden money troubles start to haunt him. Some masks fall away while others stay firmly on as the three find themselves in unexpected peril, each of them gripping on for dear life to the scraps of information they hold on the other.

You can’t ignore the easy surface pleasures of ‘The Two Faces of January’. The locations, including the Acropolis, are as seductive as the costumes and the careful, sober camerawork. The whole thing, with its ample sandy creams and beiges, looks like it’s been carved from the same weathered stone as the ancient Greek ruins that play host to two key scenes.

But the real pleasure is watching these failed, slightly sad, not especially charismatic tricksters realise the mess they’re in. Rydal’s gravy train of siphoning cash off tourists comes to a lumpy halt just as Chester’s entire world, private and professional, collapses. Dunst handles her sidekick role with a mature ease that’s new to her, but it’s the men you remember: Mortensen in psychological freefall and Isaac always tough to read and hiding something behind a handsome, controlled exterior. It’s a gentle and smart blast from the past.

Release details

Release date: Friday May 16 2014
Duration: 96 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Hossein Amini
Screenwriter: Hossein Amini
Cast: Kirsten Dunst
Viggo Mortensen
Oscar Isaac

Average User Rating

2.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:5
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:3
LiveReviews|11
4 people listening
Zohra J
1 of 1 found helpful

Kirsten Dunst usually is a hallmark of a shit movie, but happy to say not this time. Viggo can do no wrong. I'm beginning to really like this new Oscar guy. Great watch. They really missed an opportunity to have a scene of people running on Istanbul rooftops against a backdrop of blue mosque like every spy movie

theartofrunning

Rather a lot of crap...where's the tension....unbelievably boring....stay home and watch the laundry dry...more of a thrill

David G

Rather good old fashioned drama that occasionally lapses into melodrama,and unbelievability..Because it is a good old fashioned romp watching it you can easily forgive it's plot flaws.The mood and atmosphere of early 60s Greece is quite magical, infused in colour and heat,which counters the dark minds of the 3 Americans.It is very much in the Talented Mr Ripley vein.An enjoyable film 

Samantha P

Not great but not bad either. I would not give this film four stars. I wish the story line could have been a bit more developed. The end of the movie left me with many unanswered questions... Wouldn't recommend the film to a friend but considering I saw it for free, I would say had a pleasant experience.

AB

Not a suspenseful thriller at all. A bit disappointing - we were expecting a twist that never came. Looked nice but a fairly boring storyline

Ev W

THIS MOVI SOLD SHORT. Promising the goods but never really delivering much of anything. I wonder if the reviwers saw reviewed the same film I saw last night. Should not be mentioned in same breath as  ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ I do believe I will take up writing.

Lesley Ann P

Atmospheric film - you could almost feel the Greek sunshine!  All three lead actors performed excellently.  The story could be alikened to an Agatha Christie.  It kept you guessing until the end.

londonmusic

The film was set at the beautiful Greece, and with a rather intense atmosphere throughout. Very enjoyable and would definitely recommend this.

Toufik D

Greece landscapes have been depicted to perfection in this 60s lookalike sexy and noir thriller. Director's postcard is an invitation to an exquisite voyage, notably for its trio of brilliant actors. Amateurs of simple and effectual intrigues will be pleased.

MikeT
0 of 1 found helpful

Occasionally gripping, but in other places a little predictable.  Not a bad film for a Tuesday evening, but I'd be disappointed if I'd seen this movie advertised as 4 stars and seen it with friends over the weekend.   Two stars.

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PS Anyone any idea why Time Out more often than not rates films as 4 star these days?  I appreciate they've gone from paid-for-magazine to freebie, but pandering to film advertisers has meant that I don't often read their reviews before I go to the cinema.  The Grand Budapest Hotel, Calvary, Under the Skin, and The Two Faces of January have all been rated as 4 or 5 stars.  My ratings used to be pretty similar to T/O's.  I disagree with all of their ratings on those films.  The only recent rating I'd agree with is Locke which, if you haven't seen it, you should.