Thursday, 22 May 2014

Review: The Two Faces of January

World of Blackout Film Review

The Two Faces of January Poster

The Two Faces of January
Cert: 12A / 96 mins / Dir. Hossein Amini
WoB Rating: 3/7

Hossein Amini's interpretation of Patricia Highsmith's novel quickly becomes quite an odd thriller, which seems more intent on showcasing the scenery of the Greek islands than concertedly building any tension. By no means boring, but with such a languid pace that I actually wondered if I'd dropped off and reawoke at one point. The problem isn't the plot per se, but the twisting development of characters I couldn't bring myself to sympathise or even engage with. There also seem to be a number of reveals and call-backs to things which either haven't been explained properly*1 or just aren't that important in this version of the screenplay.

So, the not-inconsiderable weight of delivering the story falls onto the shoulders of Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac, with reassuringly mixed results. Dunst falls back on her multi-purpose grimace whenever she has to emote anything, and whilst Mortensen and Isaac do a decent job of being brooding and secretive, neither displays the sort of charisma or charm which would be required of the con-men/scamsters they're meant to be playing*2.

I get the feeling that there's a more compelling film to be made from Highsmith's story, and even though I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it any more, I could have at least taken comfort in the knowledge that the rest of the audience would. The crowd in Screen 2 tonight didn't seem to get much more from Viggo's grumpy antics than I did.

Still, it's nice to know that the Greek police were so trigger-happy in 1962 when an uncharged, unarmed suspect is running away from them.

The Two Faces Of January is a great brochure for rural Greece. I just didn't really care either way for anything which happened there.

Oh, and extra geek-points for Isaac asking "Were you in the war?" with exactly the same inflection that Luke Skywalker used to ask Ben Kenobi if he'd fought in the Clone Wars. I look forward to seeing what Oscar brings to the GFFA in 2015.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
The trailer suggests a level of intrigue which the film doesn't really deliver..

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
I suppose not.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
Not for me, although I'm not altogether clear what it was aiming for..

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
This is a rental, tops.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not really.

Will I watch it again?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Seriously, though. Why is it called 'The Two Faces of January'? I honestly thought that when Chester handed Rydal the two photos of his wife that he was going to look directly into the camera and say "Oh, and her real name? ....Why, it's JANUARY of course! Ha ha haaa!"
Hang on, that's not really what it's meant to be, is it? Is it just because that's what the book's called? Is it explained in the book? Is it a Greek cultural reference I'm not getting? Don't I understand anything? I am an idiot.

*1 Although to be fair, this film is from "the people" who brought us Tinker, Tailor..., and we all know how much I loved that screenplay's vague insinuation that there might be a plot.
*2 I'm not saying they aren't capable of that range, they just don't use it here.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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