The stylish novels of Patricia Highsmith lend themselves particularly well to cinematic adaptation, becoming equally stylish thrillers like Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train and Rene Clement’s Purple Noon as well as Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, both based on the novel of that name. Now comes Hossein Amini’s The Two Faces of January.
Amini, the talented writer of Drive and Snow White and The Huntsman, among many others, makes his directorial debut with this film, a passion project he’s been trying to get made for more than fifteen years. He and producer Tom Sternberg finally secured the participation of Studio Canal and Working Title, with the help of the box office appeal of their leading players, Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and the suddenly white-hot Oscar Isaac, and the cameras rolled in August 2012.
1962. A glamorous American couple, the charismatic Chester MacFarland (Mortensen) and his alluring younger wife Colette (Dunst), arrive in Athens by boat via the Corinth Canal. While sightseeing at the Acropolis they encounter Rydal (Isaac), a young, Greek-speaking American who is working as a tour guide, scamming tourists on the side. Drawn to Colette’s beauty and impressed by Chester’s wealth and sophistication, Rydal gladly accepts their invitation to dinner. However, all is not as it seems with the MacFarlands and Chester’s affable exterior hides darker secrets. When Rydal visits the couple at their exclusive hotel, Chester presses him to help move the body of a seemingly unconscious man who he claims attacked him. In the moment, Rydal agrees but as events take a more sinister turn he finds himself compromised and unable to pull himself free. His increasing infatuation with the vulnerable and responsive Colette gives rise to Chester’s jealousy and paranoia, leading to a tense and dangerous battle of wits between the two men.
Glamor, style, intrigue, sun-soaked locations, beautiful people… As Viggo Mortensen says in one of the featurettes below, The Two Faces of January looks the way movies used to look. I’m in.
If the ingénue looks familiar, it’s because she looks exactly like her mother, Joely Richardson. Daisy Bevan, whose father is producer Tim Bevan of Working Title, third generation acting royalty (Grandma is Vanessa Redgrave), doesn’t quite make her debut with this film, since she had bit parts as a child in both Elizabeth and The Affair of the Necklace, but it is her first film role as an adult.
The Two Faces of January also features a cast of international actors as well as the gorgeous locations in Greece and Turkey where it was shot.
Starting with its gala premiere at the 2014 Berlinale in February, the film has played festivals all over the world and opened in the UK on May 16. If it makes sense that The November Man opens in August, I guess it makes sense that The Two Faces of January will open in theaters in the US on October 3. (Also On Demand August 28)
If you’re still on the fence, take a look at these clips and featurettes. They verge on spoilers, but they also reinforce the idea that Amini has given us a neo-noir worthy of our time and attention.