The Two Faces Of January - Blu-ray Review

'less the tasty Thriller of hidden pasts than it first appears to be and more Drama concerned with a smattering of domestically-linked ideas'

A pretty low-key Thriller/Drama, it's surprising just how mundanely The Two Faces Of January's action plays out, especially considering the amount of times I've heard it played up as something of a twister over the last few months.

Meeting socialite couple Chester (Viggo Mortensen) and Colette (Kirsten Dunst) whilst they are on their Grecian break, grifter Rydal (Oscar Isaac) opts to take his marks on tours of 1962 Athens, whilst occasionally fleecing them for small change. But something seems amiss with an increasingly jealous Chester and Rydal finds himself slowly sucked into the elder man's mounting problems.

The tale that Drive-writer Hossein Amini, here as writer/director, crafts from that point is less the tasty Thriller of hidden pasts than it first appears to be and more Drama concerned with a smattering of domestically-linked ideas. Beholden to Chester by way of his part in the elder man's actions, Rydal's father comes up often, as Chester slowly merges to take his place, up to the point where the two eventually end up awkwardly playing father and son. By the finale, and a whispered conversation between the two, Chester appears to have finally gotten to the point where he can provide Rydal with the cathartic release from his past father-linked guilt that he craves.

Elsewhere, Chester and Colette's relationship offers as perfect a depiction of a union in unintentional freefall as something more focused on that one element: this isn't quite a period Blue Valentine on holiday, but it is close. The subtle snipes by Chester may appear to be exactly that, but Amini works well to show us that this over a sustained period is abuse, and by the end we're left with very little doubt about Chester's attitude towards his wife. As a couple too, there's perhaps something in this representing post-war opportunism. Chester and Colette are on a tour of a fairly newly-freed Europe, but their similarities to the liberating allies of the forties are limited.

All of that makes The Two Faces Of January a very interesting film to look at, particularly post-screening, but Amini's fascination with the larger ideas of Patricia Highsmith's novel leaves his film lacking in both compulsion, scope and visual style. The locations do trot around very prim areas of Europe but there's never a sense that any of them is any different to the other, Amini rooting his camera to Chester's sharp shirts and pocket squares. There's little intrigue or tension - though the scenes that emphasise Chester's increasing paranoia are effective - and, eventually, you do wonder whether this would have worked better as a play. It is, after all, a three-hander, with a very accomplished central trio at its heart. I'd happily pay money to see this on stage, but on a cinema screen? It's worth thinking twice.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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