The Two Faces of January Review
The Two Faces of January. Now what does that actually mean? For me, there’s only one face of January. Teeth chittering, red raw nose and bundled up with layers. Thankfully, the setting for the crime thriller is the idyllic islands of Greece.
Adapted from the novel by Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley), the golden haze of Continental Europe in the 60s trickles from the screen. In a time of horn rimmed glasses, fedoras and pastel colours, everything seems lovely. The towering Parthenon’s attract all types of people from across the world and the crumbled ruins soon line the getaway plan.
Starring Viggo Mortensen as the ruthless and suspicious Chester MacFarland and Kirsten Dunst as the glamours Colette MacFarland, the couple stumble across a seemingly innocent American tour guide. Rydal played by the ever emerging actor, Oscar Isaac, is a charming fellow with his closely guarded fingertips delving into young and unassuming tourists purses. Petty crimes are Rydal’s bag but what of Chester? Swindling large amounts of cash in the States, the couple have fled their home with the hope of not being caught. After being caught in a tricky spot, Rydal offers his assistance to the couple in their hidden endeavours.
Directed by Hossein Amini, who also penned the screenplay, the searing heat from the film matches the escapades of the criminals.
As Chester candidly says of Rydal, ‘I wouldn’t trust him to mow my lawn’. But soon the old trickster is forced to put his faith in the young crook. The father-son relationship is evident yet they are bound by their love for the same woman. The thieves respect one another whilst never fully trusting the other as they are pursued across the country. After abandoning his home and family, Rydal notices something familiar in the ever smoking Chester. It seems a cigarette is permanently lit for Chester and in one scene, it is lodged in his upper lip for so long that it could be the actor’s party trick. Also note that there are no pit stops for cigarettes on the sand swept trails of the Greek islands.
Isaac is definitely one to watch as he is soon destined for great things in a galaxy far, far away. The chemistry between himself and Dunst is subtle but not of the generic nature. Mortensen really holds the film together with his mounting jealously and fear of being caught for his deception. His lies continue even to his naive wife who quickly grows to care for their aide.
The ninety-six minute film lacks a certain impact. There’s no real momentum throughout their travels. The suspense is certainly apparent through Mortensen’s shifty eye stares and suspicious stares on his young wife. Yet it only just simmers. Edge of your seat type scenario does not apply here. The heavy burden of The Talented Mr. Ripley weighs on the cinema-goers mind.