The Two Faces of January (2014) / Drama-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some violence, language and smoking
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac, Kirsten Dunst
Director: Hossein Amini
Screenplay: Hossein Amini (based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith)
Review published September 27, 2014
Set in 1962, a married couple, middle-aged rich guy Chester (Mortensen, On the Road) and his young and friendly wife Colette (Dunst, Upside Down), from America travels to Athens, Greece, and end up befriending a tour guide named Rydal (Isaac, In Secret) also originally from the U.S. It turns out that their nationality isn't the only thing in common; both Chester and Rydal are con men to varying degrees. Unfortunately, Chester's past comes back to haunt him in a big way when an armed stranger comes to visit, and in the ensuing scuffle, Rydal, who has grown fond of Colette and seeks to protect her, reluctantly gets involved, implicating him in the web of deceit that Chester has built up nearly his entire life.
Hossein Amini (screenwriter for such projects as Snow White and the Huntsman and Drive) adapts and directs the Patricia Highsmith novel, which features one interesting new wrinkle in which the younger and slightly more innocent con artist sees a lot of his estranged father in the older criminal, which, by the end, could be seen as being reciprocated. It's a love/hate relationship in which the two men are joined at the hip, not wanting to go down together, but not entirely motivated enough to separate entirely. Certainly, the allure of young Colette is enough to keep interested parties around.
Amini is blessed to have solid actors front and center in his film, particularly the two male leads, whose expressive looks and gazes say so much with so little -- a critical thing for viewer enjoyment and ability to make inference in a thriller in which the main players must keep their cards close to their chest. Along with beautiful locales and sleek cinematography, this is as easy to watch and admire as romantic escape as it is a dark look at con man dynamics in a place where there two men find it hard to find allies in a country not their own. Recommended to fans of old-school psychological suspense yarns, especially those who love Hitchcockian thrillers, like his own Highsmith adaptation, Strangers on a Train -- it's a good little movie.
©2014 Vince Leo