Debut director Hossein Amini, previously a screenwriter of such films as ‘The Wings of the Dove’ and ‘Drive’ clearly knows how to create tension in a story.
Amini cooks up a rich soup of jealousy, confusion, secrets and lies, turning ‘The Two Faces of January’ into a gorgeously layered, old-fashioned thriller where double-crossing is only half the fun.
He’s done so by adapting Patricia Highsmith’s novel of greed and guilt about an American con artist and his wife, played by Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst, who are travelling in Greece when a crime unexpectedly casts them into the company of a young American working abroad, played by Oscar Isaac.
Patricia Highsmith's novels have been the source of excellent films since Hitchcock's Strangers On A Train, passing through The Talented Mr Ripley.
Set in the 1960’s, this interpretation of a lesser-known Highsmith novel perfectly captures an era when travel was strictly for the wealthy and ‘foreigners’ were viewed with suspicion.
The film’s scintillating three-way chemistry is especially irresistible — in particular Isaac and Mortensen share an intriguing father-son dynamic that simmers away beneath a surface of chess-like foreplay.
Overall there are beautiful moments where it becomes a stylish, precise thriller that’s wrapped up with a sufficient conclusive narrative. Beautiful locations, great acting, 1960s sensibilities and a plot which never spells out what is about to happen – if you like your thrillers slow, patient, clever, and full of twists then this is the film for you.