The Two Faces of January

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9/11/14

This labyrinthine thriller, based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, treads similar ground to Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr Ripley – it has a stylish 60’s setting and takes place in a series of photogenic locations –  Athens, Crete and Istanbul; but it isn’t remotely in the same league as Ripley. It’s nonetheless handsomely produced and well-acted and though it wasn’t strong enough to make much of an impression in the cinema, it’s certainly worth checking out on DVD.

Athens tour guide, Rydal (Oscar Isaac) finds himself drifting into the orbit of American couple, Colette and Chester MacFarland (Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortenson), only to discover that Chester is a notorious swindler, who owes money to people back in the states. When the couple are apprehended by a private detective, Chester accidentally kills him and the MacFarlands are obliged to go on the run. Rydal, unaware of the full story and strongly attracted to Colette agrees to help them, only to find himself implicated as an accomplice. From this point, a devious game of cross and double cross evolves…

Ripley, mainly because of a mesmeric performance by Matt Damon, managed to achieve the near impossible, making an audience root for a character who is, quite clearly, a worthless lying scumbag. None of the performers here manage to generate sufficient charisma to make us care about the outcome of the story and anelement suggesting that Rydal perceives Chester as some kind of father figure (his own father has recently died) isn’t really explored enough to convince.

This is a decent movie, that entertains throughout but lacks the extra factor that would have made it a great one.

3. 6 stars

Philip Caveney

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