Two Faces of January Film Review – Lackluster, Light and Simple

Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac and Kirsten Dunst in THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

The opening shot of “Two Faces of January” immediately sets the tone of the film.  Tour guide, Rydal (Oscar Isaac) is carefree and suave as he escorts a group of young American women through the Parthenon in Athens, Greece circa 1962.  Later, Rydal (who is from New Jersey) is distracted by an affluent American couple at an outdoor café; the man, Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen) resembles Rydal’s late father.  Rydal is immediately mesmerized with the wife, Colette MacFarland (Kirsten Dunst) and accepts the McFarland’s invitation for dinner.  While escorting the McFarland’s around Athens, Rydal is revealed as a scam artist.  However, Chester is not necessarily ignorant of Rydal’s tactics as he holds dark secrets, which include swindling and murder.  Rydal is drawn in and finds he is in over his head.

Oscar Isaac in THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

 

Kirsten Dunst in THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

 

Viggo Mortensen in THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, “Two Faces of January” is cleverly produced for the storyline.  Pacing is slow; the action is not so thrilling.  The tone is sort of a Casablanca meets Bonnie and Clyde (if Bonnie were sophisticated yet weak and submissive).  Director, Hossein Amini reveals his inspiration behind the film and it’s characters, “The darker side of human nature is often explored in films but rarely the weaker side. That is what fascinated me about this book. There’s a line at the beginning of the film where Rydal talks about ‘the cruel tricks Gods play on men’. The three principle characters in the film are at the mercy of the Gods, but they are also defiant in the way they struggle against their fate.”  

Viggo Mortensen and director Hossein Amini on the set of THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Kirsten Dunst in THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Set design is a highlight of this film.  Attention to detail for the 1960s era is especially enjoyable.  From the phone to the sound of the ring of the phone to the airline and airport furniture to vintage wardrobe; all in keeping with the time.  However, the acting and direction lack depth and the characters are lifeless with the exception of Rydal.  Isaac takes lackluster lines and adds smoldering energy and range required for the audience to care about Rydal.  The cinematography is nothing spectacular.  Lighting and music score enhanced the drama and mythology; however the overall production is simple.

Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst in THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

 

Oscar Isaac in THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

The Two Faces of January” is produced by STUDIOCANAL and Working Title Films in association with Magnolia Pictures

THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY is produced by Tom Sternberg (The Talented Mr. Ripley), Working Title’s Tim Bevan & Eric Fellner and Robyn Slovo (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). Executive producers are Tim Bricknell (Breaking and Entering), Ron Halpern (Inside Llewyn Davis) and Max Minghella. The creative team includes director of photography Marcel Zyskind (A Mighty Heart, Mammoth), production designer Michael Carlin (The Last King of Scotland, The Duchess), costume designer Steven Noble (Never Let Me Go, Under the Skin), editors Nicolas Chaudeurge (Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights) and Jon Harris (Kick-Ass, 127 Hours) and composer Alberto Iglesias (The Constant Gardener, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).

View the “Two Faces of January” trailer here:  

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