The Two Faces of January

WRITTEN BY: Hossein Amini
DIRECTED BY: Hossein Amini
STARRING: Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac, Kirsten Dunst
RATING: 3 stars
Good psychological crime thrillers are hard to come by these days, so it is great to see a film like The Two Faces of January work so well. It is an impressive directorial debut feature from Hossein Amini, who is perhaps best known for his screenplay of Drive. The film is tense and has a few surprises along the way. Unfortunately, the ending falters and almost ruins the entire film. But overall, it is an intriguing and exciting film experience.
Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, The Two Faces of January is set in 1962. American con artist Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen) and his young wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst) are holidaying in Greece when they meet fellow American Rydal (Oscar Isaac) who is working as a tour guide and also scamming naive tourists. They have dinner together and bid each other farewell as the couple plan to move on to Italy in the morning. But when Ryder notices Collette has left a bracelet in the taxi, he decides to go back to their hotel to return it. When he arrives, he finds Chester in an unusual situation, dragging a seemingly drunk man, who has passed out, into his room. But actually, Chester has accidentally killed the man who is working for people who Chester swindled out of millions of dollars. Rydal is oblivious to what has happened and so he agrees to help Chester, who he has come to admire, and Colette, who he has a crush on, to escape Athens. He has no idea the drama he is bringing on himself.
The film presents an interesting character study of three very different people, who are all lost in their own way. Chester is a bad guy but does not think of himself in that way, and the jealousy he feels, fuelled by the growing fondness between his wife and Rydal, is fascinating. His character seems to unravel as the plot thickens and yet, he remains intellectually intriguing. Mortensen was a great choice for the role. Isaac has given yet another great performance and commands attention. His character may be crooked, but there is still a likability about him. His storyline about his late father also adds some depth to his character. Dunst is pretty, but not quite as alluring as perhaps the original script may have intended her character to be. Nonetheless, she has great chemistry with Isaac.
The Two Faces of January has some thrilling moments and a good cast. It is just a shame about the ending.