|THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY (director/writer: Hossein Amini; screenwriter: based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith; cinematographer: Marcel Zyskind; editor: Nicolas Chaudeurge; music: Alberto Iglesias; cast: Viggo Mortensen (Chester), Kirsten Dunst (Colette), Oscar Isaac (Rydal), Daisy Bevan (Lauren), David Warshofsky (Paul Vittorio), Omiros Poulakis (Nikos), Yigit Özsener (Yahya); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Tom Sternberg/Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner/Robyn Slovo; Magnolia Pictures; 2014-in English, English subtitles when in Greek and Turkish)|
|"The sleek old-fashioned suspense
story kept my interest throughout."
by Dennis Schwartz
Hossein Amini, the screenwriter of "Drive"
and "The Wings of the Dove", in his directing debut,
films an absorbing, stylish and complex thriller. Amini
bases the thriller on the 1964 novel by Patricia
Highsmith, Hitchcock's favorite author. The
thriller succeeds as a Hitchcock-like work.
Athens, in 1962, the Greek-speaking American
twentysomething Yale grad, Rydal (Oscar
Isaac), is working as a tour guide. He has
run away from his father, a prominent archeology
professor at Harvard, who is despised by him because
he failed to give him the love he desired. When his
dad recently died, Rydal did not go home for his
funeral. Bothered by that bad relationship, Rydal
ponders its ill-effects and writes about it in his
in Athens, staying at the city's most exclusive hotel
and sightseeing at the Acropolis, is the charismatic
American couple, the arrogant middle-aged financial
Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen) and
his much younger vulnerable and attractive wife
Colette (Kirsten Dunst). Rydal is
drawn to Chester because of his wealth and that he
somehow reminds him of his father. Rydal is
also attracted to Colette because of her
beauty, and manages to get hired as their tour guide
for a day thanks to Colette. At night Rydal accepts an
invitation to dine with the couple, and takes along as
a date one of the innocent girls from his tour, Lauren
(Daisy Bevan), whom he cheats by
skimming money off her drachma exchanges. In a cab,
Colette loses the bracelet present her hubby
impulsively just bought for her. Thereby Rydal leaves
his date and returns to MacFarland's hotel with it,
where he encounters in the hallway Chester dragging an
unconscious man and placing him in a room. Chester
replies that the man attacked him, so he had to knock
him out to protect himself. The next day in the
newspapers it's learned that the man is a New York
private detective (David Warshofsky),
pursuing Chester in Europe, trying to get back the
money Chester fleeced from his clients.
though knowing this, Rydal helps the criminal couple
flee Greece on a phony passport he arranges with a
wary Greek forger (Omiros Poulakis). The
on-the-run desperate couple await for their false
passports in Crete. Meanwhile things turn sinister on
Rydal's travels with the couple, as a love triangle
develops and Chester becomes crazed with jealousy.
Dark secrets emerge from the dangerous Chester's past,
showing he's not exactly the sophisticated charmer he
appears to be. When Chester senses the kid wants his
money and probably his wife, things take a nasty turn.
After a bumpy and murderous journey, things eventually
get resolved in Istanbul between the psychologically
needy male leads.
simmers throughout the film, as the three main
characters hide their lies and secrets behind their
phony affable poses.
psychologically screwed up Rydal, a man with serious
character defects, recognizes that all is not as it
seems with the MacFarlands, nevertheless he clings to
them despite all the signs warning him to keep
away--intuitively knowing that they are not good for
top-notch psychological thriller runs by us the Janus
myth of duality, of having an inner face and an outer
face, to explain its maddening tale of lust and greed
as what propels the two male protagonists to do the
wrong thing despite pretending they are doing the
Because the acting and storytelling are superb and the stunningly beautiful location shots of Athens, Crete and Istanbul are a sight to behold, the sleek old-fashioned suspense story kept my interest throughout.
REVIEWED ON 10/20/2014 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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