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Saturday, September 27, 2014


Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst in THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY, a Magnolia Pictures release.Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
2014, 97 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some violence, language and smoking

Review by Joshua Handler

Hossein Amini's The Two Faces of January is a Hitchcockian thriller adapted from a Patricia Highsmith novel that is worth seeing for Marcel Zyskind's evocative cinematography alone.  That isn't to say the film doesn't have other virtues - it has plenty - but the cinematography is so stunning that it overshadows everything else.  Two Faces stars Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, and Oscar Isaac and tells the story of an American tour guide who helps an American businessman and his wife get out of trouble while in Greece.  The guide's motivations are suspicious, which causes tension in the group.

As mentioned, Macel Zyskind's cinematography is the number one reason to see The Two Faces of January.  The cinematography gives the film an exotic, seductive feel, and nearly every shot is immaculately framed and colored.  Viewing The Two Faces of January is an immensely pleasurable experience because of the cinematography.

Mortensen, Dunst, and Isaac all give strong performances.  It's a shame that Kirsten Dunst hasn't appeared in many films recently because with Melancholia and this film, she's proven herself to be an incredibly smart, talented actress.

As much as I enjoyed The Two Faces of January and as well-developed as the characters were, I couldn't help but hope to have been more involved in the story.  That isn't to say that I wasn't curious to see what would happen next for a large portion of the film, it's simply that the story should've been more surprising.  The best Patricia Highsmith adaptation (that I've seen at least) is Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr. Ripley (Purple Noon, an adaptation of the same novel, is also excellent) because it's unpredictable, unnerving, and full of narrative momentum.  January isn't completely lacking in momentum, but it's simply not completely compelling.

Overall, The Two Faces of January is a good film.  Its parts are stronger than the movie as a whole (a climactic chase sequence is particularly well-executed), but it is a well-acted, beautifully-shot piece of filmmaking that will entertain most who view it.


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