From the author who wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train comes the film adaptation of the psychological thriller The Two Faces of January, directed by Hossein Amini in his first feature length film. Set in 1962, the story follows a wealthy American couple, Colette and Chester MacFarland (Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen), whose idyllic trip to Athens turns sour when they discover that a private investigator is on their tail, chasing up money Chester owes to his client. In order to make themselves disappear, Colette and Chester enlist the help of their tour guide, Rydal (Oscar Isaac), an American living in Greece who is seemingly intrigued by the high-culture lifestyle this couple leads. But things are never as they appear, and every member of this trio is harbouring a secret, not least Rydal, whose chance meeting with the MacFarlands at the Acropolis might not have been by chance at all.
This is a very interesting and engaging movie that will have you guessing right up until the very end. Hossein Amini has done an incredible job on his directorial debut, and every element of the film is executed brilliantly. The screenplay, also adapted by Amini from Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name, is clever, mysterious, suspenseful and emotive; everything you could ever want from a thriller like this. The three leads are all mesmerisingly good, particularly Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis, Drive), who is fast becoming one of my favourite actors. Viggo Mortensen is also great, managing to be menacing in all the right ways, and Kirsten Dunst (who lets face it, can be a little hit-and-miss), is right on point with a stellar performance. On top of all this, the music, editing and the overall look, including the exotic locations and costume design, make it a very watchable film.
The best and also the worst part about this film is how much is kept hidden, right up until the very last minutes of the movie. You wont find any dramatic irony here: these characters not only keep secrets from each other, but from the viewer as well, somehow managing to manipulate you whilst you’re watching their every move. The mystery is exciting and ensures you are totally engrossed in the events playing out in front of you, but it also means there is a lack of clarity, where maybe too much is left up to the audience’s interpretation. It’s the kind of film that requires multiple viewings, so after having seen it once you can analyse it again to double check that everything actually does add up. Even so, the less you know going in, the better, for the final plot twist is one you definitely don’t want spoiled.
The waters may be a little muddy, but this is a really interesting film that resonates long after you’ve left the cinema. Although it might be a little disconcerting to have fictional character play mind tricks on you, it definitely makes for a unique cinematic experience that you wont quickly forget.
A twist on the classic thriller featurette
Shooting the Odyssey featurette
Travelling in style featurette
Interviews with Director, Hossein Amini and actors Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac
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