The Two Faces of January - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Two Faces of January Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ September 23, 2014
An average thriller that leaves a dry taste in the mouth!
Samuel Riley
Super Reviewer
½ July 2, 2014
Tense, moving and fascinating. With both Issac and Dunst giving very strong performances, Mortensen was the true highlight as the husband on the run with his wife. While the characters of Chester and Rydal showed competition over Colette, I was always routing the former despite his bad deeds. An impressive script and the well chosen actors/actress result in a decent directing debut for Amini. One of the best films I've seen so far this year.
Super Reviewer
June 18, 2014
Even if not exactly impressive or as tense and gripping as it could have certainly been, this is still a pretty efficient directorial debut for Amini, with a solid story about bad choices and disappointment, an exquisite camera work and great performances from the main trio.
Super Reviewer
June 3, 2014
an intriguing thriller with excellent performances, photography, and set design. the film is held back from a lack of plot depth and unlikable characters, but overall a very worthwhile watch.
Super Reviewer
½ February 4, 2015
An atmospheric noir thriller, The Two Faces of January is full of suspense and mystery. Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst star as a married couple travelling through Greece, but when they're discovered by a P.I. they enlist the help of a local tour guide to get them new passports and escape the country. The performances are fairly good, and the costumes and sets feel remarkable authentic to the time period. However, the story hints at more intrigue than there actually is, and it lacks a third act twist. Yet even though The Two Faces of January doesn't quite live-up to expectations, it still manages to deliver a compelling tale of deception and betrayal.
Super Reviewer
March 31, 2015
The Two Faces of January represents an interesting exercise in a romantic thriller, one with promising characters and talented leads, yet with an ultimate ho-hum execution which makes it a rather unremarkable entry to the genre. When a low-level con artist meets a wealthy American couple touring Europe, he soon finds himself hopelessly in love with the young the wife, and trouble follows.

The film, adapted from a novel, does a good job of setting a tone. The characters find themselves in increasingly precarious situations and emotions, creating a web of intrigue and complex characterizations. In this sense, the film had a very mature feeling that I appreciated. Its pace was fluid yet methodical, and the overall direction was tight and focused.

What the film lacked for me, however, was a heart. Not in the sense that it was too bleak, but in the sense that one can scarcely determine what the film is trying to say, what it wants to get across. It's almost bleak for the sake of bleak. The chemistry between the leads also leaves a lot to be desired, despite a talented cast, symptomatic of the failure of the script to really make us relate to the characters. We never fully get a grip on what lengths Viggo Mortensen's character is able to go, and the romantic overtones between Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac never ring true. The result is a film which feels competent, but not passionate or original.

Solid in many ways, not particularly memorable.

3/5 Stars
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ October 2, 2014
"Aragorn and the Two Faces of January"! It would appear as though Viggo Mortensen as back for yet another adventure, and by that, I mean that it just appears that way in the poster, because when you see these people dressed like '60s adventurers, surrounded by ancient structure, you're expecting Indiana Jones to swing in from out of nowhere. This film's marketing is more misleading than January apparently is, but hey, there must be some kind of a grand adventure in this film, because it is directed and written by Hossein Amini, who wrote 2002's "The Four Feathers", "Snow White and the Huntsman", and 2013's "47 Ronin". Yup, this film ought to be adventurous or, well, underwhelming... to somebody other than me, the guy who thought that this guy's "47 Ronin" was all right, and that his "The Four Feathers" and "Snow White and the Huntsman" were actually pretty good. Yeah, just in case you didn't think that "Snow White and the Huntsman" wasn't enough of a rip-off, here's a movie by that film's writer that features Viggo Mortensen. No, this is a little more in the vein of Amini's more minimalist period dramas and "Drive", so now it could be adventurous, underwhelming, or a little bit bland. Seriously though, I guess Amini has a pretty good track record to me, and this film kind of continues that, although it isn't all that good, partly because its pacing really isn't that tight.

While it often falls back on slightly overblown dialogue and manipulatively recurrent scoring to get you by, the film is not as slow as I had feared, but neither is it all that thrilling of a thriller, partly because it feels a little watered down, and partly because it does, in fact, limp out at times in which material meanders, and atmospheric kick actually lapses. The film drags its feet to a runtime which isn't but less than 100 minutes, and which manages to shave off a good bit of time by jarring through a couple of segments and glossing over extensive characterization throughout as mostly active pace that settles in either to limp out or to focus on something separate from what is conceptually the central focus of the plot. The angles focusing on potential adultery are particularly forced, not just because they take you from the somewhat more interesting story about a couple running from possible the possible murder of a representative of violent men seeking closure for the leads' financial mistake, but because they're histrionic by nature, just as everything else feels histrionic because of an unsubtle emphasis on tone through prominent scoring and a couple of obvious visuals. As both writer and first-time director, Hossein Amini tries a little too hard with how he interprets Patricia Highsmith's melodramatic story, and it's not like the ambition is totally justified, because as intense as this story is, it is kind of too minimalist in its focus for its own good. More than that, it is too formulaic for its own good, because if nothing else is an issue, it's this film's being tainted with conventional dialogue, and driven by familiar characters and a typical series of events, outside of certain surprising twists which, even then, aren't built up toward enough for the storytelling to not feel pretty predictable on the whole. There's not much of anything new in this film, and that's as big a problem as any that I have with this film, combining with questionable pacing, structure and dramatics in stressing the natural shortcomings of this minimalist film, and rendering the final product rather underwhelming. The film actually sees a decline in quality throughout its body, yet it still manages to fall somewhere shy of genuinely rewarding, being sufficiently compelling, and good-looking to boot.

Hossein Amini seems to have a taste for period adventure, and in his first time calling most of the shots in something of an adventure film, to my surprise, he focuses more on the nevertheless undercooked characters than he does on sweeping settings, but when he does expand his scope, art directors Alex Baily, Katrina Dunn, Sandra Philips and Patrick Rolfe deliver on subtle, but sure compliments to the selling of the 1960s era, and on grand compliments to the restoration of Athens, Crete and Istanbul at that time, in all of their beauty. Marcel Zyskind further compliments the lavish look of this film with cinematography that is often handsomely well-defined, and sometimes breathtaking in its crisp emphasis on either glow or grit, drawing you in and capturing the rich tone of this film with a little more genuineness than, say, Alberto Iglesias' score, which is conventional and over manipulatively overused, yet nonetheless remains musical solid, as well as supplementary to the entertainment value and, to a lesser extent, dramatic value of this thriller. Something about Amini's directorial orchestration feels a little too ambitious, and that shines a light on his being a newcomer as a feature film director, but, at the same time, there is light on Amini's potential as a storyteller, found within his keeping up a mostly adequate pace, with thoughtful moments that, when not too slow, and not too diluted by contrivances, grip, like this story probably ought to. There isn't much dramatic depth or considerable dynamicity to this melodramatic and formulaic story, but this is still an intriguing, very Hitchcockian study of brief acquaintances finding themselves locked together in a run from the law, maybe to a new life, with shocking turns of events. There is a solid amount of potential in this story, and what natural shortcomings there are go stressed by problematic direction and scripting, but the direction has more than a few highlights, like I said, and through all of the contrived dialogue, uneven focus and slim characterization, Amini's script is tight enough to maintain adequate momentum. As for the humanity, whose prominence can make or break the memorability of this affair, what nuance is lacking in the characterization is made up for in the performances, at least those by Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac, with Mortensen projecting a grounded charisma whose gradual incorporation of both vulnerability and intimidating make for an enigma of a man with a dark side, while Isaac charms and occasionally grips in his portrayal of a bright young man who finds his life and his faith in his new friends threatened when a brief companionship turns into a frustrating and dangerously uncertain adventure. These two men carry the film when it is at its lowest, and it never sinks that low, ultimately falling as pretty decidedly underwhelming, though not quite as forgettable, entertaining and compelling often enough to border on rewarding, even if only just barely.

Once all of the faces are revealed, the final product is rendered rather underwhelming by slow spots, limitations in characterization, a degree of unevenness, and a couple contrivances which shine a light on the natural shortcomings of a very formulaic story, but on the backs of lavish art direction, solid cinematography and score work, directorial and writing highlights, an intriguing narrative, and a pair of solid performances by Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac, Hossein Amini's "The Two Faces of January" stands as a sufficient and sometimes gripping Hitchcockian-style thriller, for all of its setbacks.

2.75/5 - Decent
Super Reviewer
½ June 7, 2014
Handsomely made and old-fashioned in pace and texture - a lot of the success hangs on the three leads' wonderful performances and chemistry rather than the story (based on a Patricia Highsmith novel) which is only occasionally interesting.
Super Reviewer
September 17, 2014
The Two Faces of January left a pretty average taste in my mouth. Nothing outstanding with it outside the location it was shot in. The acting is quality from the trio of Mortensen, Dunst and Isaac. Reminiscent of the old 50's/60's romance caper flicks. It almost felt like this movie just scratched the surface of what it really could have been if the story would have gone deeper into the relationships and really given us background on Isaac's character especially. It's very stylish. Usually when Mortensen does a flick, it's rare and tailored to something he specifically wants to associate with. He's known for his independent endeavors more-so than the big budget mammoths outside of LOTR. It paced well and ended with a sad tone. However, there's a small uplifting when Isaac's character walks off screen and the real message of the film is delivered for these complicated characters. Not really sure what the title has to do with the movie.
Super Reviewer
June 30, 2014
Alluring shades-of-grey intrigue, with abundant charm.
March 21, 2016
I'd been wanting to watch another Viggo Mortensen movie for quite some time now and one appeared on Netflix the other night that sounded quite interesting. The Two Faces of January also stars KIrsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac (who coincidentally keeps showing up in movies I didn't know he was in) in a story set in Greece in 1962. Viggo and Kirsten are a couple on vacation who develop a strange relationship with their tour guide. They quickly become best friends and the couple ends up staying just a little bit longer. A major incident happens that cements the three as potential accomplices.. for a time.

The Two Faces of January was a smartly written and very real sort of thriller. The performances of all three stars were excellent and succeeded in capturing my complete attention to the point I forgot I was watching actors. The pacing of the plot made sure the film was never dull and the chemistry between all three was perfect. Viggo and Kirsten were an actual believable couple and you began to empathize with them up to a point.

I know a lot of people have not been big fans of Kirsten Dunst's movie career but trust me when I say that this film may be her best. If you want to see her in a truly excellent performance, you need to watch this film. The same goes for Viggo Mortensen who I'm glad to see is still turning out classics. I guess I need to stop saying Oscar Isaac surprised me with how good he was since he makes every single film better just by being in it. I need to stop writing anymore and just drive home the fact to all of you that you need to watch this film. The soundtrack, setting, and story are all excellent and there are surprises around every corner. This is such an underrated little gem.
½ January 3, 2016
A well acted movie with a flat, overly straight forward script- I should have known it was the same guy who wrote the stinker that was Drive. You never quite understand what Rydal's motivation to engage and then help these people is, even if Oscar Isaac is compelling enough for you to care about his wellbeing. It looks nice, the dynamic between the group keeps you watching, but there's no mystery, no suspense and no real motivation for anybody but Chester, so in the end you just kind of shrug and enjoy what you can.
½ September 24, 2014
A really exciting movie with great performances from Oscar Isaac, Kirsten Dunst, and Viggo Mortensen. I watched this movie over the corse of two night and I cut it off at the right moment before a big pinnacle scene takes place that ups the suspense and thrills of the movie to why it got to be 4 1/2 stars rather than just 4. That final chunk of the movie would have been an excellent short film but that's not to say the first half of the movie is not worth your time because it is. Great costumes, cinematography, and writing and a really wonderful score and direction from a debut director. It has that Hitchcock feel to it but is unlike a lot of movies I have seen. Definitely worth tracking down
September 21, 2014
The story is compelling, the actors are talented and the cinematography is beautiful. A very well done drama.
May 19, 2015
Not sure why this was not more acclaimed by critics. Beautiful scenery and a great cast, combined with an interesting plot and intelligent script. The character development was excellent. Vastly underrated romantic thriller.
½ October 15, 2015
This is certainly a "gripping thriller" if you find yourself regularly enthralled by scotch tape. There's plenty of eye candy for the period piece enthusiast, but, unfortunately, a plot that makes murder and espionage seem pale and boring.
½ September 24, 2014
The movie has a few twist and turns, some of which may be obvious for the casual viewer, but the film is nonetheless a visually striking, well made thriller.
½ July 26, 2014
Very well-made film with an excellent musical score, tastefully directed, but failed to hold my interest due to a somewhat dull plot and three distasteful characters. A lot of time passes while you just watch Viggo smoke one cigarette after another. Ugh! What is it with the entertainment industry? Are they deliberately trying to encourage young people to smoke?!!! Pet peeve of mine!
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