The Two Faces of January
dir-scr Hossein Amini
prd Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Robyn Slovo, Tom Sternberg
with Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Bevan, David Warshofsky, Omiros Poulakis, James Sobol Kelly, Evgenia Dimitropoulou, Ozan Tas, Panagiota Stavrakaki, Prometheus Aleifer, Nikos Mavrakis
release UK 16.May.14
14/UK StudioCanal 1h36
The Two Faces of January
A vision in linen: Mortensen and Dunst

mortensen dunst isaac
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Two Faces of January Since it's based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, it's no surprise that this thriller tells a story about moral compromise that leads to slow-burning Hitchcockian suspense. And it cleverly works its way under the skin, as the three lead actors create a fragile complexity that makes the deeply flawed characters eerily sympathetic.

Chester and Colette (Mortensen and Dunst) are on holiday in 1962 Athens, where they meet charming American tour guide Rydal (Isaac), who is already wooing a wealthy young tourist (Bevan). Then one night, a private investigator (Warshofsky) visits Chester demanding cash stolen from a client. When Rydal stumbles onto this scene, he offers to help Chester and Colette, taking them to Crete to plan their next move. But there's already an odd dynamic at work between these three people, and Chester becomes convinced that Colette and Rydal are getting a bit too close.

Unsurprisingly, the film looks gorgeous, with the sun-drenched locations and beautiful actors lovingly photographed by Marcel Zyskind. Linen is wafting everywhere, although Mortensen's suit somehow never gets smudged or wrinkled. And Alberto Iglesias' surging score continually sets the mood. It's so slickly assembled that it doesn't reveal much about Amini's skills as a first-time director, although it's clear that he's adept at making the most of a talented crew. And of course we already knew that he writes superb innuendo-packed dialog (see Drive or The Wings of the Dove).

He also directs the terrific Mortensen, Dunst and Isaac to performances that beautifully soak every scene in suggestiveness. The relationships between these three characters are prickly and surprising, constantly shifting as we learn more about each person and their past indiscretions. Present-day transgressions are another thing: we watch each of the three betray the others in both major and minor ways. Although the true nature of the connections between them remain enticingly ambiguous.

This combination of off-handed but tightly wound performances and bright, slick filmmaking is irresistible. The plot may unfurl in a slow, steady trickle, but the quietly gurgling suspense makes it utterly mesmerising. Sudden moments of violence are shocking, as are the deeper waves of jealousy and other even more twisted emotions. Morally, the film's playing-with-fire message may seem simplistic, but the creepy bond between Chester and Rydal is even more unnervingly haunting.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 4.Mar.14

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