The Two Faces of January Review – An Exceptional, Superbly Acted, Classic Noir Drama

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"The Two Faces of January," from Studio Canal, Working Title Films and Magnolia Pictures, presents a cat and mouse murder mystery filled with international intrigue, exotic locations, heightened suspense and a web that captures from the beginning.

 

Directed by Hossein Amini "The Two Faces of January" stars Viggo Mortsenson, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac and was based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith and adapted by Amini.

Set in 1962 Greece "The Two Faces of January," opens as a group of affluent American college women are listening rapturously to Rydal, played by Oscar Isaacs, a rugged handsome American and writer living aboard, working as a tour guide while he develops his poetry and art.

As the group approaches the Parthenon the afternoon lighting casts a warm glow across the marble structure complex, one of the last great monuments to ancient Greek society dating back to 438B.C.,, a stunning camera pan, and the last stop on the summers over tour for the young women who are enjoying the last days of their European adventure.

Walking along the Parthenon, we meet Chester and Colette MacFarland, played by Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst, the two other points in our noir triangle, smartly dressed, from all appearance, happily in love, well off, America travelers, discussing the finer points of the Parthenon as an archeological value and magnificent survivor of time.

The first hint of intrigue comes as the two are having a drink in the shade when Chester mentions the American is staring at them. And why shouldn't he be – a handsome couple, smartly dressed, with a beautiful wife, the picture of success.

In order to end the mental build up, Colette, in one simple and cementing move makes the introduction. Soon the couple has become a trio. A Sunday tour through the Greek flea market adds to the intrigue on both sides, a dinner invitation brings the trio closer to the truth. A simple trinket, a bracelet of fate becomes the driver in solidifying a destiny unknown moments before.

"The Two Faces of January" captivates from the beginning, the exotic location, the intrigue and even the fashion as our seemingly in love characters present the perfect image. Watching the facades fall and the exteriors deteriorates as truth is revealed is astounding and exquisite acting.

Watching Viggo Mortsenson's performance as the calm, cool, together, in control, American business man, Chester MacFarland,  stripped away and replaced by frantic, uncontrollable, Darwinian panic is nothing short of mesmerizing. Watching him play out the manipulation, written

The three, Kirsten Dunst, Oscar Isaac, and Viggo Mortsenson, bounce the next explosion or implosion off each other with the skill of seasoned manipulators leaving the appearance of social coolness for the way out. The trio plays out a classic noir genre set as the tension builds and gives way to escalating drama carrying the survivors into a confrontational crescendo and determines who lives or dies in this classic noir drama.

"The Two Faces of January" is superbly acted, exceptionally directed and incrediblly well written. A winner all around.

"The Two Faces of January" is in theaters now. Definitely a must see. 

Haute Tease

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