The Two Faces of January

Film Review by Josh Slater-Williams | 12 May 2014
  • The Two Faces of January
Film title: The Two Faces of January
Director: Hossein Amini
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst
Release date: 16 May
Certificate: 12A

Patricia Highsmith adaptation The Two Faces of January is very much in the narrative mould of the author’s familiar brand of Mediterranean noir. Athens tour guide Rydal (Isaac) befriends the wealthy Chester MacFarland (Mortensen) and his wife (Dunst). He then aids them when Chester’s shady past sees the pair needing to flee the country. Money seems to drive part-time scam artist Rydal, but ulterior motives soon reveal themselves.

First-time director Hossein Amini has respectable screenwriting credits to his name (The Wings of the Dove, Drive), and with this cast one would hope for a jazzy three-hander thriller. While a competently watchable affair, there’s some flimsy characterisation that these fine actors can’t quite embellish; Dunst in particular is saddled with an underwritten role.

Isaac comes off best, although the tenuous nature of his devotion to this couple never quite convinces. He and Alberto Iglesias’ Herrmann-like score are the film’s highlights, but the overall piece doesn’t excel beyond being an ineffectual distraction – Mortensen’s recurring drunken sulking provides (possibly unintended) laughs. [Josh Slater-Williams]