Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: The Two Faces of January (2014)

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(All work and no play makes the Fad a very poor film reviewer!  My apologies to my regular blog followers for the lack of recent posts).

The Two Faces of January is a gripping and highly watchable film which I would highly recommend.  Set in the sixties, it is undeniably “old school” – a twisted tale of murder, treachery and double-dealing, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, where you half expect Alfred Hitchcock to appear in cameo at some point.

Viggo Mortensen (Lord of the Rings) and Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman) play Chester and Colette Macfarland a rich and affluent couple touring the sites and sounds of Europe, with us first catching up with them in a glorious looking Athens. 

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Appearing to be relaxed and happy together, they hide a dark secret that is about to catch up with them.  Oscar Isaac – so fabulous in Finding Llewyn Davis earlier this year, and about to hit mega-stardom in the Star Wars reboot – plays American rogue Rydal, who seems to stare intently at Chester.  Is he part of the impending storm, or just an innocent caught up in events he can’t control?   Tensions rise, not just because of the plot pressures but also because of the obvious sexual tension growing between the charismatic Rydal and Chester’s lovely and much younger wife.  

The compelling story – albeit somewhat predictable in places – takes in some fabulously atmospheric locations in Athens, Crete and Istanbul.  

This is the feature directorial debut of Iranian-born Hossein Amini, who also wrote the screenplay – this being his forte have written a range of films including Drive and Snow White and the Huntsman.  And what a good job he does, orchestrating location, lighting and music to great effect.  Some of the editing is also very tight, cutting away from scenes at crucial points to maintain the story’s mystery.

The trio of actors also bring great star power to their roles.  Mortensen and Dunst are very watchable, but it is Isaac that again really shines in his role.   In turns enchanting, brooding and cowed like a cornered animal, he plays the perfect James Stewart character in this Hitchcockian homage.     

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In the coming blitzkrieg of summer blockbusters, here is a jewel of a film that will be particularly enjoyed by older viewers who remember when story and location were put far ahead of CGI-based special effects.

Fad Rating:  FFFF.

 

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