Movie Review - The Two Faces of January
Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence and The Lord of the Rings) stars as Chester MacFarland, a man with whom you get the impression is the Bernie Madoff of the 1960's, the Jordan Belfort of that time perhaps, or some kind of white collar criminal who has gotten away with tons of other people's money.
Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire and Spider-Man) plays Chester's wife Collete who is noticeably younger but who fundamentally loves him and not necessarily for the lavish lifestyle he provides.
Oscar Issac (Drive and Inside Llewyn Davis) co-stars as Rydel, a scam artist who speaks foreign languages and acts as a translator, taking advantage of Americans who don't speak Greek.
It seems as if the movie could go in one direction, which is a direction I appreciated, but like Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley, the momentum kicks into high gear once a murder occurs and the narrative for the rest of it is just the characters trying to evade capture. However, unlike those other two Highsmith stories, this one, at least as portrayed on screen, doesn't provide us as much about the protagonists, particularly Chester who is the lead character, as the protagonists in the other two.
I felt like I had a better knowledge of Guy Haines, played by Farley Granger in Strangers on a Train, and Tom Ripley, played by Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley. I also feel like Granger and Damon had more to do than Mortensen has to do here. It might be because this movie takes place in a shorter span of time, only a few days. This movie feels too short, almost as if it's missing a first act that better establishes the three characters here.
The fact that it's not here is a bit of a letdown, but it's replaced with an interesting father-and-son dynamic that was well-played in moments. Mortensen and Isaac have good chemistry as it were. Amini does a great job of playing up the suspense and building paranoia, particularly with the use of visuals, well-constructed wide-shots as well as chilling close-ups of newspapers.
Four Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for some violence, language and smoking.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.