Film Review – The Two Faces of January

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The Two Faces of January – a directorial debut for Hossein Amini – is a very fine adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel. It isn’t in the same league as Anthony Minghella’s masterful take on Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley, but it’s still a solid thriller and a good companion piece to that film.

Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst play Chester and Colette McFarland – a rich married couple living from hotel to hotel in 1960s Europe trying to escape the shadow of financial scandal. Enter tour guide/small time con Rydal (Oscar Isaac), who agrees to help them get new passports and escape from Greece after an altercation with a private detective sent to recover money for Chester’s disgruntled investors turns nasty. From there things get increasingly complicated as Chester’s darker side emerges, along with Rydal’s obvious attraction to Chester’s much younger wife.

Performances are all solid, especially from Isaac who is terrific as the troubled Rydal. In addition to coaxing fine turns from his leads, Hossein makes great use of locations and widescreen space, which inevitably means the impact of some shots will be lost on television. The screenplay (also by Amini) makes a good fist of adapting the novel, building with quiet, slow-burning confidence to a gripping, suspenseful conclusion.

All in all, a classy piece of work.

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