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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 October 2014
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.
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on 7 June 2014
A compelling throwback to the suspenseful thrillers of 60 years ago, Two Faces of January is as stylish a film as you will see from any decade since talkies began. Reminiscent of Hitchcock in his 1950's pomp, but without the melodrama, writer director Hossein Amini's interpretation of Patricia Highsmith's novel is beautiful to look at. The European locations evoke an idealised period of foreign travel, yet the film has an underbelly that scrapes the surface of gritty realism in the way that Hitchcock did not. The result is an involving slow burn with flashes of action only when warranted. The heart of the film is the evolving relationship between its three stars, who quickly become tied together. No McGuffins here, only solid plotting and convincing events used effectively to advance the story. The central performances are compelling and highly accomplished. Oscar Isaac must now be on the verge of the A-list after following Llewyn Davis with his excellent turn here, and Kirsten Dunst steps out of the shadow of teen movies and blockbuster love interest with a beguiling performance in the role of Colette. But Mortensen is the emotional engine whose misfiring character, MacFarland, pushes the plot forward with stuttering steps. His performance should be considered a career best as he embraces all of MacFarland's flaws and lays them bare for the audience to great emotional effect. After such an assured and beautifully realised performance behind the camera, there can be little doubt that Hossein Amini's future is likely to be in the director's chair, and his next project should be awaited with keen anticipation.
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on 31 August 2014
The film is based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. Rydal (Oscar Isaac) is an American living abroad working as a tour guide fleecing American tourists. He has father issues. He meets Chester (Viggo Mortensen) MacFarland who reminds him of his father and his wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst) who he desires in an Oedipus kind of way.

Chester gets into trouble and must go on the run. Rydal comes along with and gets tangled in his life.

Janus was a two faced god who looked both forward and backward. The title refers to Rydal, who is a younger form of Chester, two people who are alike but different in age. The story takes on aspects of a Greek Tragedy. The action is slow. The film is more drama than thriller. It is about relationships, that could have been better developed. (I imagine the book did that.)

This is not a film for everyone. It is well acted, but the plot moves slow.

Parental Guide: No F-bombs, sex, or nudity.
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on 2 June 2014
Saw this at the flix at the weekend so thought I'd pop a review on here for the benefit of any considering the DVD when it's released. I'd rent it if you have the option as (imo) it won't stand a second viewing, not in a negative sense, just that once you know what's happened you probably won't need to see it again.

This is a good story, & starts with a wealthy, happy, couple on holiday in Greece, that hire a travel guide to show them round a bit, before they find themselves embroiled in a very unsavoury situation. It's well acted, as you'd expect from the cast, & filmed along the lines of a Hitchcock-esque style movie that gives a good sense & feel of the 1960's when it's set. I haven't read the book so can't make a comparison unfortunately, but the film works well.

It's very tense,& gets darker, certainly for the last hour, & the ending was very satisfactory I felt.

Great cinematography, making good use of the beautiful med-setting & the characters unravel throughout the course of the movie, with some surprises in store.
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on 3 November 2014
It's Athens, 1962, and a handsome young American called Rydal (Oscar Isaac) is acting as a tourist guide to earn some money, as well as conning a few tourists into parting with theirs. His attention is caught by a couple of wealthy-looking American tourists, Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen) and his pretty wife, Colette (Kirsten Dunst). Chester becomes aware that Rydal is watching them and Colette light-heartedly makes it her business to meet the Greek-speaking young American and find out about him. Rydal seems harmless enough and so Chester invites him, and a friend, to dinner. What begins as a casual and amusing acquaintanceship turns into something more intimate and sinister when a man with a gun turns up at the MacFarlands' hotel room and Rydal, returning a bracelet left accidentally by Colette in a taxi cab, finds Chester dragging what appears to be an unconscious man along the corridor. Suddenly the triangular relationship of Chester, Colette, and Rydal turns into one of compromise, jealousy, distrust, and danger.

Although The Two Faces of January (perhaps a reference to the two-faced Roman God, Janus, looking to the past and the future) is a bit of a slow-burner to start with it soon picks up and develops a distinctly Hitchcockian flavour. I half expected the profile of a pot-bellied director to appear for an instant somewhere in the background. It's quite a classy movie really with great locations and settings as the characters do a bit of country hopping, but I was surprised at the casting. I always think of Viggo Mortensen as an action actor but in this he plays an aging man who is jealous of a handsome young man who, in turn, is attracted to his wife. As for Kirsten Dunst, she always seems to be cast in the role of a woman with a lacklustre personality but in this movie, that seems to work out quite well for some strange reason.

The Two Faces of January (2014) is quite dark at times and there is a chase scene reminiscent of black and white cops and robbers movies. If it all seems a bit dated, it is in keeping with the storyline as it is set in 1962, two years before Patricia Highsmith, authoress of the book upon which it is based, actually wrote it.

It's not a movie I'd be in a rush to watch twice, but I was happy to have watched it and certainly think it's worth checking out.

VJ - Movies and Books World blog
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 February 2016
Adapted from a Patricia Highsmith novel this stylish atmospheric thriller set predominantly in Greece in the early 1960s centres on the relationships between three Americans – Viggo Mortesen’s wealthy tourist Chester MacFarland and his younger wife (Kirsten Dunst) and Oscar Isaac’s Rydal, an expat tour guide they befriend. It has the feel of a ‘classic’ character-driven movie of old as the inevitable plot twists rely on gradually revealed histories and motivations. Beneath the superficial elegance there is a barely disguised ‘heart of darkness’ which rapidly comes to the fore when Chester’s past catches up with him in an Athens hotel. Rydal’s decision to assist his new friends results in unforeseen consequences as he discovers that this couple may not be the paragons he assumed. The three protagonists give marvellous performances as unlikable disturbed individuals living lives of desire, deceit and self-interest and while the alpha-male confrontations are particularly noteworthy, Dunst’s subtle portrayal as the catalyst for this one-upmanship is not overshadowed. The cinematography and costumes certainly evoke a time and place with nicotine plumes appearing on the screen as almost as often as the Greek ruins and while the pacing of the film will irritate some, I felt that it was appropriate to the storytelling and the genre. I found the narrative compelling, intelligent and possessing an admirable emotional complexity and would certainly recommend at least one viewing, remembering that these Americans abroad are not of the Jason Bourne type.
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Part way between a Hitchcock film and a Greek cousin of En Plein Soleil this adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel starts off slowly as the two male leads mirror each other while engaged in a ritual performance for the hand of the female. There are a barrel full of Greek (and Roman) themes involved including Oedipus and it is only fitting that part of the plot happens at Knossos. However, if archaic parallels are not your bag it remains a good tense thriller in which at every turn things just keep getting worse. Excellent playing all round and a wonderful evocation of that era before the freedom to travel had spread; and Americans abroad were always rich, or intending to be so. Rydal Keener is a rogue though perhaps not quite in Tom Ripley's class.
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on 30 October 2016
I liked this movie. The places in where its shot are lovely. The actors are solid. The plot is a little shaky. Starts off nicely then the action starts but nothing more follows really. The detective appeared to be all on his own with no more help and that side of the story is finished as quick as it starts. The rest of the film is then fleeing and trying to get out of the country.
The whole situation could have ben avoided in my view if they'd have just checked out the hotel that night saying they had an emergency back home. Paid their bill and got their passports back and taken a cab straight to the airport. [getting the hell out of dodge] as the Americans call it.
I think the story could have been better. I personally was expecting it to turn out that young mans father had lost everything investing in the older guys share company and had killed himself then throughout the film although appearing to help them the young American is really waiting for his moment of revenge.

Having said all this though the film is a good watch and its something I would watch again at some point and recommend​ for friends to see too.
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VINE VOICEon 4 June 2014
Hanging in the shadow of The Talented Mr Ripley and Plein Soleil is this new film set in 1960s Greece by 1st time writer-director Hossein Amini,whose previous scripts have graced The Wings of the Dove and Drive.It was the later film's success which gave Amini the turnaround in his fortunes,which got Two Faces made.We are in the noir-thriller territory of Patricia Highsmith,adept at creating amoral characters adrift in the Mediterranean,a psychological study of Americans abroad caught in sexual and financial paranoia.This was written after the Ripley books,sharing some of their themes.

American tourists Chester(Mortensen) and Colette(Kirsten Dunst) MacFarland are visiting the Parthenon,where they meet fellow American Rydal Keener(Oscar Isaac), who is acting as a tour guide,scamming tourists like wealthy Lauren(Bevan) around Athens. The film is a homoerotic study in the relationship of Rydal and Chester,as Chester reminds Rydal of his father,with whom,recently deceased,he had a hateful relationship.But Rydal is drawn to the couple's wealth and sophistication,and Colette's beauty(she reminds him of a childhood sweetheart).When Rydal returns Colette's bracelet after dining with them,he is drawn helplessly into helping Chester move a body-a P.I. who has pursued Chester to Athens to recover money for clients who invested with him-he later finds is dead.Chester is running his own bigger scam,which his wife colludes with as they go on the run.

Everyone is compromised and on the make.Rydal helps the couple flee to Crete to secure fake passports.There are periods of waiting,where Chester's violent paranoia throws Colette and Rydal together,as he gets more abusive, drunk or tired out.There are classical themes running through it,like the god Janus,facing two ways,forwards and backwards,exits and entrances;the Oedipal conflict;Theseus and the minotaur in the labyrinth(there is a dramatic scene set in Knossos at night where struggle ensues).Nothing is what it seems,as Rydal reminds Chester."Truth is,we're joined at the hip",as Chester tells the disconcerted Rydal as the plot thickens. We get moments ofclammy tension,Chester's jaw and fists flexing.The film looks and sounds great: with widescreen look and Hermanesque score,but suspense is sucked out of the film.

There are moments of tension in Cretan airports and Turkish bazaars with a crack cast,but Dunst's character is ill-defined and unused.We never really get inside their heads,although despite the beautiful scenery,we are riveted to their facial expressions,the Highsmith themes of the corrupting influence of money and the homo- eroticism between the two men,doesn't sink any shafts. Mortensen delivers intensity(as per his History of Violence/Eastern Promises brand) in his role, Isaac fulfils the promise ofInside Llewyn Davis.Handsomely mounted, stylish,elegant with a clever use of parched,rocky landscape as the tension mounts.Great white linen costumes, straw panama hats.There's a sense of nostalgia about pre-tourist Greece.
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on 28 September 2014
"The Two Faces Of January" is an old fashioned kind of movie. Its reminiscent of an old HItchcock style story with a relatively small scale plot following a businessman and his wife, and the stranger they meet while on holiday in Athens in the 1960's. Initial impressions are soon proved to be false and as they find themselves drawn into a series of events that spiral out of control you get to see the true nature of each of the characters.

This is a very character driven piece with Vigo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac all giving a very good believable performance. But there are few other speaking roles in the movie making the focus very narrow even for a 90 minute film. In the end just not enough happens to really make this very gripping. Despite some good acting the script has few lines that really stand out and there are no scenes that are really very memorable.
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