The Two Faces of January is an American thriller, written and directed by Hossein Amini, based on the 1964 novel by Patricia Highsmith. This is the directorial debut for Hossein Amini, who has previously written the screenplays for Drive and Snow White and the Huntsman.
The Two Faces of January stars Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst as Chester and his much younger wife, Colette MacFarland, a married couple travelling around Athens. Whilst there, they meet Rydal, played by Oscar Isaac, an American working as a tourist guide in Athens who scams his customers. Aften an incident at the hotel the McFarland’s are staying at, they have to flee Athens with the help of Rydal.
As the film is based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley, it could be easy to compare this with the highly successful 1999 film version of The Talented Mr. Ripley. However, The Two Faces of January manages to be successful on its own, due to its intriguing plot and strong cast.
Throughout the film, the audience are constantly left wondering what the three characters will do next. Especially in the case of Rydal, whose motives aren’t completely known. You aren’t sure if his motives are financial, due to his growing attraction for Colette, or for another reason to do with his past life in the US.
You are also not completely aware of what the incident concerning Chester MacFarland is regarding, which has caused them to leave Athens in a hurry. All of these questions only make the film more intriguing, as you follow the characters without knowing what will happen next, and only gathering more information about them as the story moves along.
All three main characters are perfectly portrayed, as Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac are excellent at playing characters that seem like they’re hiding something, especially in the case of the two male characters. As the story continues, tensions mount and you want to know more about each of them, whilst seeing the increasingly vulnerable Colette and the increasingly jealous Chester clash. Oscar Isaac has a stand out role as the mysterious man stuck between the married couple.
Although the film is a thriller, it is only rated 12A in the UK, and according to the British Board of Film Classifications, this is due to ‘infrequent strong language, moderate violence and scenes of smoking’. You cannot watch any scene in this film without Viggo Mortensen smoking in it! But as the film is set in 1962, this is to make it fit in with its time more realistically. Being set in the 1960s, the outfits and locations are beautiful to watch on screen, as is the scenery of Athens and Greece.
Although The Two Faces of January may not stand out as anything very new or original, it certainly is an enjoyable film with strong cast performances, especially from Oscar Isaac, and an interesting plot, without the reliance on CGI as some thrillers have nowadays. As thrillers go, this is fairly easy-going to view, but it will still keep you guessing throughout.
The Two Faces of January is out in cinemas now!
Warning, this trailer is quite spoiler-ish!
Read the article at focusfilm.co.uk