The Two Faces of January

Based on the book by Patricia Highsmith, The Two Faces of January follows vacationing couple Chester (Viggo Mortensen) and Colette (Kirsten Dunst) as they’re forced to go on the run with a mysterious stranger (Oscar Isaac’s Rydal). First-time filmmaker Hossein Amini has infused The Two Faces of January with an exceedingly deliberate feel that grows more and more problematic as time (slowly) progresses, which is too bad, certainly, given that the picture does boast a number of agreeable elements and a somewhat promising opening stretch. There is, however, simply never a point at which the viewer is wholeheartedly (or even partially) drawn into the familiar narrative, as Amini, working from his own screenplay, delivers an arms-length midsection that suffers from an almost total lack of both momentum and tension – with the latter especially problematic, certainly, given the growing emphasis on thriller-like attributes. It’s clear, too, that the trio of talented performers generally find themselves unable to elevate the material and are, for the most part, stripped of their usual charisma, while the film’s hopelessly anticlimactic third act ensures that The Two Faces of January concludes on as underwhelming and tedious a note as one could’ve imagined – which confirms the movie’s place as a fairly misbegotten adaptation that admittedly doesn’t fare much worse than the lackluster source material.

* out of ****

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