Two Faces of January – Film review

two faces of january

Celebrity guest contributor, the legendary Hugh Cornwell, reviews the new movie starring Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac, which is centred on a con-artist, his wife and a stranger, who flee Athens after one of them is caught up in the death of a private detective:

If this film had been made in the 1940’s or 1950’s it would have only been a B-movie, and been directed by Samuel Fuller. On a tighter budget no doubt, but I’m sure Fuller would have done a better job.

Two Faces of January starts off well enough and you’re drawn into the three main characters, but as soon as the Macfarlands leave their hotel after a nasty accident to their pursuer, it falls apart. Why on earth they decide to leave their hotel without their passports, God only knows. Not exactly the way to avoid becoming prime suspects. I guess they panicked. And I guess it was in the script.

This is definitely not one of Highsmith’s better books, and I’m a big fan of hers.

Greece looks great though, by the way. The attention to detail is immaculate, and I even recognised Chania Harbour in one of the scenes.

Mortensen walks through his role without breaking into a sweat, and Kirsten Dunst is always worth watching, but the real acting comes from Oscar Isaac, as the young American tourist, Rydal, out for an opportunity. He reminds me of a young Al Pacino and could walk straight into the Michael Corleone role. Daisy Bevan, the producer’s daughter, makes a brief appearance as Rydal’s girlfriend at the beginning, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the future. She a natural, being Vanessa Radgrave’s granddaughter.

The shortcomings of the plot become clearer when Kirsten Dunst is removed. Mortensen and Isaac wander around the rest of the movie wondering how they can reach the end of the picture without her. They should have said something to the director, Hossain Amini. And this is the man that wrote the splendid Drive.

Very disappointing.



Words by Hugh Cornwell. Visit Hugh’s own website here. It’s an online radio station dedicated to bringing the best of film, music, interviews and music pieces from his celebrity guests’ favourite films.