Cinema Review: The Two Faces of January | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Two Faces of January

Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Directed by Hossein Amini

Sep 25, 2014 Kirsten Dunst
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It’s boring to describe tension, especially cinematic tension, as “edge of your seat”. And yet, that well-worn statement is certainly indicative of the best and/or the most successful kind of tension. Unfortunately, despite coming from the mind of Patricia Highsmith, the novelist behind The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Two Faces of January is more likely to have you leaning back and forth in your seat every so often, depending on the scene.

While on holiday in Greece, Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen) and Collette (Kirsten Dunst) find themselves in a situation where they need help from a fellow American (and con man) named Rydal (Oscar Isaac). The film’s themes of duplicity are spelt out by its title: January is named after the Roman god Janus; the god with two faces. His two faces are interpreted In two ways, either in terms of good and evil melding as one or as faces looking into both the past and future all at once.

Like The Talented Mr. Ripley,and its French adaptation Purple Noon, The Two Faces of January is to some degree about identity. Rydal is young and shifty, a young man whose intentions are unclear and whose words must be questioned at all times, especially because he presents himself as so charming and amiable. Chester also dabbles in dual identities: either loving husband, or conniving and jealous crook.

Though these concepts are intriguing at best, there’s little that’s actually compelling about the characters or even the situations. It’s not a film devoid of skill by any means; director Hossein Amini photographs Greece in a romantically sweltering light (reminiscent of an episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot), but his ability to build that necessary pressure and stress is lacking. One would assume that the scenarios in the film would mean that the theatrical strain would exist in a de facto manner; not so, as it feels like a trudge to go through, though a skillful, pretty, and not completely unentertaining one. The caliber of actors doesn’t seem to affect much either, surprisingly. Instead, unable to be duped, one might be prone to remembering neither face.

Author rating: 5.5/10

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