Dir: Hossein Amini | Cinema of Our Time | UK, USA, France | 2013 | 96 mins
Oct 07 02:30 pm | Vancity Theatre
From the beginning of the film, The Two Faces of January keeps you thinking about who to trust. In Athens in 1962, we from early on see that both American tour guide, Rydal (Oscar Isaac) and wealthy American tourist Chester (Viggo Mortensen) are scam artists to some degree. An accidental murder puts both men along with MacFarland’s wife, Colette (Kirsten Dunst) on the run together. As the film progresses the motivations of characters are constantly in question; especially Rydal in his choosing to help the couple escape. Whether his motives be money or attraction to Colette, Rydal becomes inextricably woven into this relationship which is fraught with tension.
The characters themselves are as complex as their relationships with one another. We are given only small glimpses of what drives them forward (and occasionally what drives them to drink), but this is what keeps the audience engaged and intrigued.
One aspect that frustrated me in the film was the lack of development in Kirsten Dunst’s character. We are given very little on her past, or her real desires. She is portrayed only through the emotions and tensions she draws from the two men. This may have been intentional to pull our focus to the tension between Rydal and Chester, who both despise each other and are forced to work together. The two men, along with the audience, are in constant suspicion of one another, creating a unique and enthralling dynamic.
Two Faces of January is the first feature length film from Hossein Amini. As this elegant thriller progresses, the characters become more complex, drawing the audience into their intricacies and tensions. We’re on the run with the unlikely trio and thrown into their frustrations along the way.