“I’m sorry I disappointed you.”
The Two Faces of January opens with a striking beautiful photography that captures our attention immediately. From the very first scene where we meet the main characters while they are touring at the Parthenon in Greece we are drawn by the visuals, and we soon find out that it plays a huge contrast to the underlying darkness of the lead characters. This is a very stylized and gorgeous to look at film, but the characters are hiding several dark secrets under their exterior cool looks. This is a period piece that gets all the technical aspects of the film right, but the narrative lacks suspense. As complex as these characters may seem, there is very little that attracts us to them. Despite the fantastic interplay and chemistry between Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Issac, the narrative does little to raise our sympathy for these characters. If the screenplay could have been more engaging this could have been a fantastic film because it is aesthetically gorgeous. There are several twists and reveals along the way that are dark and mark a huge contrast to the breathtaking background. Unfortunately, The Two Faces of January is one of those films where the style seems to be more relevant than the story.
This is Hossein Amini’s directorial debut, but considering he wrote the screenplay for one of my favorite recent films (Drive), I had high expectations for this film. I’m also a huge fan of Mortensen and Isaac’s work so I expected to have a great time, but despite their solid performances I never cared for the characters nor the suspense the film was trying to raise. As a thriller it never really works, but the cinematography makes up for most of the film’s flaws. I also enjoyed the costume design, because it was very stylized and it set the right mood giving it an authentic retro vibe. The score however did feel a bit manipulative and forceful at times. As much as it was pleasurable to look at this film I couldn’t help but feel there was something missing. A thriller without suspense doesn’t really work for me and that was my main issue with this film. There is also an underlying father and son relationship that the film sort of wants to explore, but never really does go beyond dealing with the beginning admirations and ultimate disappointments.