The Two Faces of January
An interesting choice of words was selected by Hossein Amini (writer and director) when describing the original novel version of The Two Faces of January: “It was loosely plotted, inconsistent at times, often illogical, but somehow the story and its flawed characters got under my skin and never left.” This almost backhanded compliment seemingly sets Amini a tough ask as he attempts to construct and assemble this juxtaposed world.
The intertwining relationship of the three main protagonists is a theme clear from the outset of the film, well explored through its complexity. The audience is presented with the high-class American couple, Chester and Colette MacFarland (played by Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen), and the infatuated hustler Rydal, played by Oscar Isaac. The drama primarily revolves around Chester and Colette’s strained relationship as the age difference between them fuels the former’s drunk-assisted paranoia, as Rydal’s youthful charm offers Colette an appealing escape.
Although the film is dependent on twists and dramatic tension, the plot is also driven by character performances. Mortensen, in particular, gives a standout performance as a deteriorating husband lost in a haze of alcohol and jealousy. Amini takes the picture back to an old-school style of thriller as there are moments of genuine trepidation that will have audiences holding their breath as the final chapter of the movie accelerates into a frantically fast-paced thriller in an uncompromising fashion.
The visually rich landscapes have a life of their own: scenes in Istanbul and Greece are beautifully set, providing the perfect backdrop to the action being played out in front of them. The contrast of the stunning sets and more dark sinister actions occurring is a perfect contradiction as the characters learn the consequences to the actions they have taken.
Amini’s task of creating flawed realistic but intriguing characters is definitely accomplished as Isaac, Dunst and Mortensen all sparkle in their respective roles, successfully portraying visibly grounded characters who suffer their separate fates. The idea of basic raw people being a consequence of their environmental actions is taken to almost Breaking Bad-esque levels in The Two Faces of January, as Amini presents a masterclass in suspense and dark drama.
The Two Faces of January is released nationwide on 16th May 2014.
Watch the trailer for The Two Faces of January here: