Well last Friday was the first weekend of Spring but Winter’s still not done with us yet as it was the Winter Wonderland again Sunday night. I didn’t think the snow was going to stick but here’s what my neighborhood looked like as I left work this morning! I do love those snow-covered branches!
Skipped the cinema again this weekend, but rented a few things from Netflix: Shaft (the 2000 version with Samuel L. Jackson – review upcoming) and The Two Faces of January. Apparently The Phantom of the Opera (2004) w/ Gerry Butler and Emmy Rossum is now on Netflix streaming so of course I had to rewatch that again. In fact, I also watched half of the 2006 BBC Jane Eyre w/ my dahling Toby Stephens. Wintry night in is meant for viewing indulgences 😉
Oh, on Thursday night also rented what’s supposed to be a Danish re-telling of Hamlet called Royal Deceit. I couldn’t believe how horrible it was, it’s simply ghastly in terms of direction, script (if you can even call it that), production design, as well as acting. I only saw it because of the stellar cast: Gabriel Byrne, Christian Bale, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Tom Wilkinson AND a young Any Serkis (this was apparently his film movie), all of them were absolutely wasted in one cringe-worthy scene after another. I honestly thought the cast might’ve lost a bet or something to star in this movie, what a criminal waste of talents! If I were to rate it, it’d get a big fat ZERO reel as there is nothing redeemable about it.
Anyway, here’s my review of …
The Two Faces of January
A thriller centered on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who flee Athens after one of them is caught up in the death of a private detective.
This film seems to have the making of a great psycho thriller, given that it’s from the writer of great mystery thrillers The Talented Mr Ripley & Strangers on a Train. I haven’t read Patricia Highsmith‘s novel, but I’d think the book might’ve been more exciting. It has its moments but it suffers from a rather sedate beginning and sluggish second act before it finally picks up in its third act.
I haven’t seen Viggo Mortensen in anything new in a while so it’s always nice seeing him here, playing an older, elegant businessman Chester Macfarland traveling with his young wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst). Mortensen is a solid actor and he does a great job here, but I find myself drawn to the tour guide/con-artist Rydal (Oscar Isaac) with his brooding good looks and dark, enigmatic eyes. There’s a palpable sexual chemistry between Isaac and Dunst, and Isaac also has some great dramatic scenes with Mortensen, especially towards the end.
The breathtaking cinematography in Athens and Crete is practically a character in itself and it serves as a fine distraction during some of the film’s slower parts. The finale’s foot-chase scene in Istanbul was stylishly shot and that’s definitely the most exciting part of the entire film. Iranian director Hossein Amini made this film with a Hithcockian flair to it, and the use of light is quite dramatic, especially in the night time scene in a Greek ruin. Apparently this is Amini’s feature film debut so that might explain the uneven tone, but I think he did a pretty good job for a first timer and I’m curious what he’d do next.
I think the strength of the film lies in Mortensen and Isaac, and the film’s main conflict is ultimately between these two. Mortensen convincingly displayed the jealousy and paranoia that constantly haunted Chester, whilst Isaac’s character couldn’t seem to shake his lust for Colette that sucked him deeper and deeper into this dangerous predicament. I’ve been a fan of Isaac for some time and I sure hope he’d get more leading roles as he’s got such an effortless screen magnetism.
Given the intriguing plot and the cast, this could’ve been a really compelling and riveting noir thriller. As it is now, the film dragged in parts and felt longer than its 96-minute running time. It’s also hard to care about the unlikable characters, even if there’s a hint of redemption in the end. But overall I still think it was well-worth renting, especially if you’re a fan of Highsmith and Hitchcock and/or any of the cast.
So did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen The Two Faces of January, I’d love to hear what you think!
41 thoughts on “Weekend Viewing Roundup + The Two Faces of January (2014) review”
Haha, you know I think I remember watching the review of Royal Deceit on Siskel & Ebert years ago and they hated it too. Most of those actors were quite unknown so I assume they only appeared in the movie because they needed exposure, Gabriel Burns might be the only well known actor to many audiences back in the early 90s. I remember seeing a trailer for The Two Faces of January last year but somehow it never gained any traction, I assume it only opened in select cities.
I popped in the NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN bluray but I couldn’t finish it, forgot how dreadful it was, at least now my Bond collection is complete. I also watched STOKER, bought the Bluray months ago and forgot to watch it, I thought it’s great. Then I finished watching season 3 of HOUSE OF CARDS on Netlfix.
Y’know, I’ve been putting off seeing Royal Deceit but I thought what the heck, how bad could it be? Well, it really is atrocious! Gabriel Byrne, not Burns 😉 But yeah I think he was probably the most well-known at the time. Funny that he also co-starred w/ Mirren in Excalibur as lovers, too!
I’d um, never see NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, ahah. Oh Stoker was good indeed, I gave it a 4/5 a while back.
That snowy image looks beautiful indeed and you have seen quite a lot of films. Haven’t seen too much myself. Saw Paddington, which was a really fun movie and yesterday was invited to a green carpet premiere of the Shaun the Sheep movie, which wasn’t amazing but very fun nonetheless. Haven’t seen Two Faces of January and your review doesn’t convince me to check it out quickly…
Which version of Shaft did you see? The original or the remake with Samuel L. Jackson?
Hi Nostra! Yeah the snow on branches are pretty but I’m so done w/ Winter, ugh!
Oooh, a green carpet premiere, that sounds fun! The Two Faces of January is still worth a rent actually, it has issues but overall it’s a decent noir.
I saw the 2000 version w/ Sam Jackson, I clarified that on the post 🙂
Ah, I love Jeffrey Wright in that he’s so funny in that film “Teflon, nothing stick on me!”
Ahah yeah, he’s definitely the scene stealer in that movie. It’s interesting that a Black actor played Hispanic, that’s quite rare I think. I’ve finished my review of it but saved it for a future post.
With a setting like Crete, and a solid cast, it would hard for The Two Faces of January to be bad. I want to see this! Thanks for the good review, Ruth.
I have a feeling you’d enjoy the film Cindy! I take it you’re a fan of Viggo?
I love him a lot! I will rent this for sure. 🙂
Excellent work Ruth, The Two Faces of January sounds like something I’d really enjoy.
Thanks Vinnie! Yeah I think if you like a good noir, this wouldn’t be a bad rental.
I love a good noir so this is going on my films to see list.
Hope you enjoy it Vinnie!
Anything you recommend is usually great.
Oh I hope so 🙂 But whatever you do, avoid Royal Deceit!
I watched The Cabinet of Dr Caligari in an outdoor screening which was rather lovely. The film is fantastic too of course!
I had to google what The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is about. Hey an outdoor screening sounds great though if it were here in MN we’d all freeze to death, ahah.
It’s a classic! Add it to your blind spot! 🙂
Glad you liked it Ruth. I’m a pretty big fan of it. I really latched on to the characters early on and the air of uncertainty from the very beginning had me constantly guessing who was who. I really liked that. As you said, Viggo and Oscar and the shining lights.
Hi Keith! I think the more the story progressed the more I became invested in the characters, but not right away. I’m not too fond of Dunst in this film, I think the two actors are much more intriguing and mesmerizing, esp. Isaac 😉
Great review. I recently watched and reviewed this as well. Looks like we had similar feelings on this film. Here is my review:
Hope you like it.
Hi there, glad you like the film too. It has issues but it’s still a pretty contemporary noir.
I have seen Royal Deceit… it was… meh… Other than The Gunman, I saw my Blind Spot assignment in Alphaville (review coming tomorrow) and a short by Agnes Varda.
Royal Deceit was more than meh, it was horrifyingly bad! My blindspot entry won’t be up until next Tuesday, but I have a feeling lots of people will have theirs done this week.
I really liiked Two Faces, Hitchcockian sounds aboutn right, it felt to me very much like a film made a few decades ago, no FX or modern BS. Viggo has done better but he and Isaac played off each other great I agree. From memory I gave it the same score. Nicely written Ruth
You’re right Jordan, I like that there’s no SFX use here, just a clever use of lighting and camera work to create an atmospheric scene. I really like the Viggo and Isaac pairing, both are such underrated actors. I’m glad Isaac’s been getting some good offers, but I hope he gets more leading man roles.
Totally agree. Since I saw Isaac in the Davis film I knew he was something special. Crazy he had been around for a fair while before that film. But singing, playing guitar AND acting amazingly? Yep I’m a fan! Not to mention he is obviously multi-lingual – here’s to hoping Isaac and Viggo make another film together eh?? I’d truly love to see that again, they were great together, despite the flawed film.
I wasn’t as fond of Inside Llewyn Davis as a film but I was blown away by how good Isaac was. I first saw him as Prince John in the Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood movie, and he already caught my eye then. Yeah I’d love to see the two together again in a movie!
I’m with you on January…it was good, but could have been tighter. It had some lagging moments, which shouldn’t have happened…and I actually rather hated the ending, which felt forced.
I really think the first act was waaay too sluggish, but thankfully the actors managed to retain my interest. Y’know I kinda have a feeling the ending might be divisive, some ppl even said they wanted the bad guy to stay bad, ahah. It doesn’t feel forced to me, a bit too abrupt I suppose, but I kind of knew things wouldn’t end well for Chester. But what he did to Rydal at the end surprised me.
I missed Two Faces Of January when it was out here. I’ve really been enjoying Oscar Isaac’s films though so I might give this one a try when it’s on Netflix even though I wasn’t so taken with the trailers.
Hi Natalie! If you like Isaac, then I highly recommend The Two Faces Of January. He’s quite mesmerizing in this film 😉
Two Faces of January sounds intriguing. Haven’t seen Royal Deceit, but sad that a movie with that cast could be so bad. Great post.
Hi Dell, The Two Faces of January is on Netflix, so yeah, worth renting for sure. But Royal Deceit is really, really bad. It’s hard to believe w/ that cast, but don’t let that fool you!
Cool post! What a lovely “winter” scene! We didn’t have much of a winter here. It was pretty warm since like mid-January and now we are having summery temperatures already!
Two Faces of January looks cool. LOVE Oscar Isaac!
Hi Fernando! Sorry I missed your comment here for some reason. Well, I’m already sick of Winter and the temps still aren’t warming up yet, and we’ll get rain most of next week 😦
I’m slowly crushing on Oscar Isaac, I might dedicate a post for him soon 😉
Hope it gets warmer for you soon! It’s pretty much summer here already
And I love the idea of a post dedicated to Oscar Isaac. Such a talent. I rewatched Llewyn Davis last week and was reminded of his beautiful voice.
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I’m intrigued by The Two Faces of January, but I’m not sure if I’ll check it out. Still, the cast and the source material sound too good to ignore.
I think it’s worth a rent just for the cast, esp Viggo and Oscar.