The Two Faces of January

6.21 h 36 min2014X-RayPG-13
This thriller follows Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst) as they befriend a guide (Oscar Isaac) on a European trip. This friendship takes a turn when it morphs into a love triangle full of envy, and murder.
Hossein Amini
Viggo MortensenKirsten DunstOscar Isaac
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Robyn SlovoTom Sternberg
Magnolia Pictures
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Content advisory
Alcohol usefoul languagesexual contentsmokingviolence
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4.1 out of 5 stars

454 global ratings

  1. 52% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 22% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 13% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 7% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 6% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Christina ReynoldsReviewed in the United States on November 15, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
A Genius Story and a Classy Interpretation of It
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The Two Faces of January is a 2014 American-British-French thriller film written and directed by Hossein Amini, in his directorial debut. It is based on Patricia Highsmith's 1964 novel The Two Faces of January and stars Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac.

Perhaps it would be best to start this review by puttings its source material - a novel written by Highsmith - in to perspective; as opposed to other movies based off of her works, (Looking at you: ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’) ‘The Two Faces of January’ manages to conjure all of the details needed to understand the characters portrayed in a way that has some amount of meaningful depth. This is done through the use of elements that better explain why some characters behave the way they do (ie: open and closed dialogue), and doesn’t attempt to undermine the circumstances being shown most recently or those that are yet to come. SO...fair to say we are off to a good start.

It might seem like I’m being a bit overzealous with my praise when I say this, but it’s rare to find films that go to the lengths this one does so as to ground its plot and make the emotions characters are feeling at a time easier to relate to. The scene and its obscurity changes as the relationships between characters develop. The movie starts off with scenes that are bright and vibrant and slowly transform into surroundings that are at times seemingly pitch black; the audience is just as much in the dark about certain scenarios metaphorically as the characters find themselves quite literally. In addition to this, the way in which dialogue is presented for its audience is rather thoughtful in that some consideration is being made in regards to the characters being spoken with; if a character is being spoken to in a language they don’t understand the words they are hearing are not paired with a translation but are simply subtitled with things along the lines of “Speaks in German”. It only follows that translations are provided when characters are receiving information in a language familiar to them (which, quite methodically, are during scenes where characters are becoming privy to information that changes the tone of the story) and paints a bigger picture in regards to the overarching plot and its context.

To truly appreciate the ingenuity of the story it is only fair to spell out the meaning of its title as it is not explicitly explained in the movie for a variety of reasons. ‘The Two Faces of January’ alludes to the Roman God ‘Janus’; ‘Janus’ is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past and is often associated with elements of safety and guardianship. Chester and Rydal are introduced right from the start as gentlemen that are completely different from one another, but the duality of man slowly pulls them together and makes them dependent on one another for some amount of security or immunity. We are, however, reminded that these characters and their differences play a key part in the relationship they are able to achieve with others, and this is best illustrated by conversations the female protagonist engages in when only one of the male protagonists accompanies her; her willingness to trust a complete stranger is subtly challenged as being a result of her naivety, and her willingness to trust an intimate partner that is clearly capable of thievery and murder is questioned as unreasonably sound. By the time the conclusion presents itself the audience is left with one very important inquiry with real world applications: Am I loving the people I see, or loving the people I think they are?

Simply ingenious writing and presentation:
I would recommend!
25 people found this helpful
MISSunderstoodReviewed in the United States on March 23, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
Solid screen adaptation of a complex story
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Since this film is based on the 1964 novel of the same name, written by Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley and many more that have been adapted to the screen), one has to begin with an awareness that there can only be so many twists and turns without straying too far from the source material, which would betray the point of adapting this book to film. So, do take into consideration that this film is a slow burn, more psychological than thriller.

How does this film stack up to other screen adaptations of Highsmith's work? Pretty solid, I'd say. Considering films rarely, in my opinion, are able to convey the same depth of complexity as written material, this film is very capable and allows the actors to use their expressions and body language to convey complex emotions, while the dialogue is used to drive the plot, and it really works.

The ethnically ambiguous Oscar Isaac was a terrific casting choice for the role of Rydal as he is highly believable as a man who can slip into different languages and cultures and make himself at home wherever he lands, while his inner angst makes him unable to find a home within himself. Viggo Mortenson is Viggo, not much else to say, he's always great, though I believe there are other actors who would have been able to play Chester; but we want Viggo to be the "good guy" and it is always compelling to see an actor play against type and play someone who's flawed and not a hero, nor an anti-hero, but just very human and broken. I'm not a Kirsten Dunst fan and normally I would refuse to watch a film she's in, but she actually is fantastic as the young wife, Collette, and struck the right balance of - what did she know about her husband's elicit business affairs and where was she complicit? and where was she totally in the dark? And how much did she truly understand and acknowledge her husband's character flaws (alcoholic schemer) and was she, throughout the film, perhaps using Rydal to get a rise out of her husband because she knew all of his weaknesses and how to get into his head? But there is conflict here as well - does she love Chester, or is she purely in the marriage for the money, and does Chester love her either, or is she merely a possession to him?

I won't bother with any synopsis of the film. Love triangle, yes, but the more compelling piece of the plot is the unresolved lingering father/son issues. It is noted several times within this film that Chester reminds Rydal of his father, and discussions of both men's relationships with their own fathers surface and bind these two men by an invisible thread. Themes of father son, parent/child resentment and parental abandonment are woven throughout the story, as complex as the real-life mother/daughter issues Highsmith had with her own mother.

Both male characters, Chester and Rydal, mirror one another, and their game of cat and mouse is delightful. What does one do when he sees himself in his nemesis? when he can guess every move his opponent will make because these are the same moves he himself would make, but this is no advantage because his opponent can play the same calculated game of mental chess and knows exactly what he will do as well. When you fear your enemy, but love your enemy, not because your enemy is your friend, but because your enemy is a reflection of yourself, and so you in turn loathe your enemy, but you cannot outwit him because you cannot escape nor outwit yourself.

If nothing else, the lush scenery and location, location, location! of this film make it worth the watch. Not without irony, the story begins in Greece and ends in Turkey, two nations which have a complex history with one another, the pull of two faces - Christianity and Islam. After this past year of COVID isolation, traveling from the sofa is better than no travel at all, and the magnificent ruins and sites allow one to feel like a tourist, as the film was shot on location in both countries, adding to its authenticity.

All in all, I rate this film 4 stars due to compelling characters, quality acting, a capable adaptation of a complex story, and excellent cinematography. I would not watch it again, but it is definitely worth watching once, enjoying, and moving on to other films.
9 people found this helpful
seameaReviewed in the United States on February 27, 2022
4.0 out of 5 stars
A Gem of A Movie
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Just found this movie and decided to watch it. The acting and writing was top notch. Anytime you can interpret what the character is feeling without the actor verbally speaking is incredible-doesn't happen often. The one scene where Oscar Isaac is on the boat and sitting at the table with Viggo, he drinks the shot of whiskey, lights a cigarette and fails to speak because of emotion, no words to convey. The movie starts a bit slow at first but then makes up for it. 2/26/22.
4 people found this helpful
Veronica RoseReviewed in the United States on May 1, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
Absurd storyline and unrelatable characters
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Bits and pieces of tourist locations in Greece and Turkey failed to lend a redeeming James Bond background to this dragged out, depressing film about doomed and damned hustlers and grifters on the lam. The roll out of the film was ludicrously replete with impossibly narrow escapes, police everywhere unable to detect a thing (until, for no particular reason, the end), tiresomely long and pointless zooms on the faces of the protagonists drinking gallons of whiskey and smoking hundreds of cigarettes throughout.
4 people found this helpful
NuTimeReviewed in the United States on March 6, 2022
2.0 out of 5 stars
In the end is a miss
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Two thirds of it the movie is way above average. Viggo, Kirsten, and Oscar performance is A-class, cinematography exceptional, the story flows coherently, then the script completely collapses. It's not just that the rest of the story is disappointing in terms of where it takes us versus where we would like it to be according to everything that happens until then. The last third of the movie makes little sense, and the actor's effort turns into faded memory.
2 people found this helpful
Robert HayesReviewed in the United States on February 17, 2015
4.0 out of 5 stars
An Hitchcockian tour of Greece
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It is very apt that this film is called THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY because, as Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, the three characters at the center of this noir-ish thriller are in somewhat of a transition themselves. When their paths cross in Athens (another nod to classic mythology, and one rich in its cultural history), it sets them on a journey that will irrevocably change them. One thing you'll notice when watching this film is that it doesn't feel like something that would be produced today. It has a fairly slack pace and there is an attention to fashion and scenery that recalls a bygone era, and in many ways this feels rather intentional. Greece is a country with a rich history of ruins, and yet it is a burgeoning modern society. This adds to the subtext about the relationship with past and future that I believe the film is trying to convey. Still, there is another meaning which can be gleaned from the title, one that is a bit more literal: being two-faced, or duplicitous. The characters played by Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac weave a web of intrigue and secrets which end up being their undoing and cause things to go wrong, as is apt to happen in a film such as this. Even though I haven't seen too much Hitchcock, there was something very Hitchcockian about this film, from the double-crosses and intrigue, to the amazing score which reminded me a bit of Bernard Herrmann. Aesthetically and thematically, this film has a lot going for it, and the performances help sell it even more. Still, the way in which things are revealed and wrapped up was a little too simple and anti-climactic for me. I'll not give away any spoilers, but at the end you might ask yourself, "That's it?" That's not to say that the journey to the end wasn't thrilling, but it fumbles a bit in those final moments. Overall, even with the weak payoff, this is small film that deserves to be seen if only for the beautiful cinematography and excellent performances.
15 people found this helpful
SASunshineReviewed in the United States on June 26, 2015
4.0 out of 5 stars
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I really liked this movie! It was a great plot, easy to follow, no cursing, no explicit sex ... WHY CAN'T THE UNITED STATES PRODUCE THESE KIND OF MOVIES !!! Rather than werewolves, avengers, stupid stuff with all that fake stuff flying around. They always produce better movies with great plots overseas. WHO needs to watch explicit sex anyway - please !!! This movie is well worth watching - it won't disappoint - it has lots of twists and turns, surprises - etc.
22 people found this helpful
Hari BrandlReviewed in the United States on January 8, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Consumate Highsmith
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Loved the twists and turns, the Highsmithian insight into the mind of psychopaths and con-artists. The acting was great, the photography beautiful, the history and mythology engrossing,
6 people found this helpful
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