The Two Faces of January (2014)

The Two Faces of January (2014)
  • Time: 96 min
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Director: Hossein Amini
  • Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac


1962. A glamorous American couple, the charismatic Chester MacFarland (Mortensen) and his alluring younger wife Colette (Dunst), arrive in Athens by boat via the Corinth Canal. While sightseeing at the Acropolis they encounter Rydal (Isaac), a young, Greek-speaking American who is working as a tour guide, scamming tourists on the side. Drawn to Colette’s beauty and impressed by Chester’s wealth and sophistication, Rydal gladly accepts their invitation to dinner. However, all is not as it seems with the MacFarlands and Chester’s affable exterior hides darker secrets. When Rydal visits the couple at their exclusive hotel, Chester presses him to help move the body of a seemingly unconscious man who he claims attacked him. In the moment, Rydal agrees but as events take a more sinister turn he finds himself compromised and unable to pull himself free. His increasing infatuation with the vulnerable and responsive Colette gives rise to Chester’s jealousy and paranoia, leading to a tense and dangerous battle of wits between the two men.


  • I always think that the word ‘thriller’ can be a little misleading. ‘The Two Faces of January’ is often described as a ‘thriller,’ however, if you’re expecting wall to wall car chases and edge-of-your-seat kind of thrills then you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

    It’s about an American city trader and his young wife who have ‘escaped’ to Europe, due to owing money to the ‘wrong’ people. Unfortunately for them, their past literally catches up with them in the form of a debt collector who they subsequently kill. Now they’re forced to enlist the help of a local young man to evade capture and flee their once safe haven.

    And what follows is pretty slow, but deliberately slow. There are no government agents of police officers on their trail. Their worst (and most dangerous) enemies turn out to be each other. The two men are sort of tied together, both admitting that they’d drop the other in it if either were to get caught. It’s almost more of a ‘cat and mouse’ sort of game they play, even though they’re never more than a few feet apart.

    Some people have described the film as akin to Hitchcock’s work. There are certainly comparisons to be drawn, as, not only is The Two Faces of January set in Hitchcock’s era, but it’s more of a subtle thriller, relying on tension in relationships and a slow build up of tension to provide the experience.

    Viggo Mortensen is the star. Yes, Kirsten Dunst is the other ‘big name’ in the film and her (and Oscar Isaac supports the pair of them), but Mortensen arguably turns in the best performance. You can’t help but at least slightly root for him throughout most of the film.

    It’s not a long film and its runtime is suitable. If it went on too long, people would probably start getting bored. If you’re into quieter, more refined, character-based thrillers, then you should give this a try. Those craving fast-paced action will be best off avoiding this.

  • A slightly above average desert sand colored crime thriller, you immediately associate with a solid Hitchcock mixed with elements of an Agatha Christie novel. The rich American couple Chester (Viggo Mortensen) and Colette (Kirsten Dunst) are on vacation in Europe and meet in sunny Greece the American guide Rydal (Oscar Isaac) who isn’t afraid to swindle people on a small scale. He offers Chester and Colette a guided tour through the city. Eventually, the couple also doesn’t appear to be innocent and after Chester killed a fairly intrusive private investigator, Rydal offers its services to help. What follows is a psychological jousting in which jealousy and a budding romance plays a central role. A stylishly filmed psychological thriller, with excellent performances and a subtle captured escape from Athens to Heraklion and eventually ending up in Istanbul. In terms of content, the whole isn’t really that big of a deal and I was expecting something more from this movie. A story in which a small crook helps an even bigger crook and becomes trapped in a psychological love triangle. Beautifully filmed, evocative at times, but ultimately a bit dull and ordinary despite the charismatic performances. Hossein Amini, who wrote the scenarios for “Drive” and “47 Ronin”, fails to create the same tension as in “Drive”. Maybe a tiny recommendation : why not direct a self-written scenario …

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