Saturday, 7 July 2018

The Two Faces of January

This is an unsettling 2014 thriller from the pen of Iranian Hossein Amini. It’s usually his pen that does the work in a lot of TV shows (The Alienist, McMafia) but in this rare directorial outing, I think he handles the task very well indeed.

The story is a dark and chilling one about a man and his wife who are swanning around the world (as it turns out, we find) to keep away from some colleagues in the US who he’s double-crossed. The man, played by Lord of the Rings’ Viggo Mortensen, turns from balanced, confident, loving husband to a tortured, jealous and irrational mess as a young male guide on-the-make latches onto them and displays a clear interest in his wife. The wife is played by Kirsten Dunst (Fargo, Interview with the Vampire, Spider-Man) trapped between the two men as the story develops.

It develops into a near-Hitchcockian thriller as the chain-reaction of events lead the main players into dark corners, battling to stay ahead and alive, with a growing mutual mistrust of each other and everything around them. The three actors play their parts quite excellently, convincingly and give much of themselves to keep the edge-of-the-seat thrills rolling amongst the twists and turns. It does feel a lot like a 1960’s thriller and it is, indeed, set in the early 1960’s - mostly in Greece, Crete and Turkey.

The sets are atmospheric and photography, in parts, very thoughtful and interestingly executed. There’s a lot of routine also, but watch out for the glimpses of European cinema style. As the story heads for the climax, things do heat up and I’m confident that you won’t be looking at your watch! Highly recommended as an intelligent thriller rather than all-action brain-numb. Available just now on Amazon Prime.

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