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Eternal Triangle gone pearshaped
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