The Two Faces of January movie poster. Fans looking for a movie that has the look and styling of those 1940’s/50’s thrillers will be pretty satisfied with The Two Faces of January.

The Two Faces of January

Fans looking for a movie that has the look and styling of those 1940’s/50’s thrillers will be pretty satisfied with The Two Faces of January.  It does a lot of things right and is just as praise worthy for what it leaves out as much as what you find within.  Basing it on the novel by Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train) was the first step in the right direction.  Though Highsmith passed away in the mid 90’s she left some timeless characters that transfer nicely to the big screen.

Chester McFarland (Viggo Mortensen) appears to have everything. A pretty young wife named Colette (Kirsten Dunst), a jet set lifestyle, and suave mannerisms that only the rich can pull off. While vacationing in Greece he and his wife befriend a young American tour guide, Rydal (Oscar Isaac) who has a knack for swindling the local tourists. There is no bigger con artist than McFarland though and when he gets involved with the death of a private investigator he persuades Rydal to help get him and Colette out of Greece. Rydal soon finds himself trying to stay one step ahead of McFarland, who has grown jealous of the relationship between Rydal and Colette.

This film doesn’t overthink the story or characters nor try and flatter us with fluff. The tension is there and the plot moves quickly. It never bogs down with over explanation but at the same time there are few holes to trip on. It is simply a slick 90 minute drama that is expertly acted and seamlessly directed by Hossein Amini who also wrote the screenplay. Kirsten Dunst hasn’t been seen lately in too much worth bragging about and I guess the same could be said for Mortensen. Here they both bring solid characters to life. They have the chemistry needed and when Isaac is added the threesome really gels.

The film is set in the early 60’s and the clothing and mannerisms help this film seems timeless. There are fleeting moments that might remind you of a wide range of other movies; from Strangers on A Train to To Catch a Thief. The three main actors embody the time period instead of appearing to be transplanted there. The Two Faces of January is rated PG-13 for some violence, language and smoking. The language is adult but not wall to wall. Also the violence, like earlier movies, is suggested enough for you to know what happened without having it splattered over everything. This helps make the film more enjoyable as it focuses you in on the character tension and doesn’t just distract you with unneeded filler.

I give it a solid 4 out of 5 passports. It was a pleasant viewing and I pictured sitting in an old art house theater with the world of technology long forgotten.

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