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Total Film | The Two Faces of January Review


With thriller-writer Patricia Highsmith – she of the Ripley novels and Strangers On A Train – supplying the source material, you expect larceny, twisty psychological games and violent death, often played out against a European backdrop. And with this, the first directorial outing from screenwriter Hossein Amini (The Wings Of The Dove, Drive) that’s pretty much what you get.

No question, Two Faces looks and sounds great. Marcel Zyskind’s widescreen lensing evokes the limpid Mediterranean magic of Athens, Crete and Istanbul back before the tourist hordes descended, and Alberto Iglesias’s Bernard Herrmann-esque score ratchets up the atmosphere. But what the film fatally lacks is suspense.

We’re never taken inside the heads of the central triangle (recalling Roman Polanski’s feature debut, Knife in the Water) so – for all the cast’s best efforts – we never care too much what happens to them, and Dunst’s role in particular lacks definition. Amini’s film offers elegant pleasures and holds the interest – but it never grips as it should.

Intelligent, stylish adaptation of a Highsmith thriller with a crack cast and superbly photographed period locations. But it misses the essential element of tension.

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