Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Two Faces of January

(UK, USA, France, 2014)

Quite a strange little movie, taken from a book by Patricia Highsmith, who was known for unusual protagonists and plotting. Viggo Mortensen is a fugitive financier who bilked some of the wrong people, such as Mafia guys, but thinks he has gotten away with it and is relaxing in Athens with his wife, Kirsten Dunst. They encounter an ex-pat American tour guide/street hustler, Oscar Isaac, and they seem to take a liking to each other. Then a private dick from American shows up and says his clients are demanding their money back. There is a fight, and Viggo accidentally kills the man.

Oscar encounters Viggo trying to dispose of the body in the hotel, and decides to help him. The reasons are never completely clear, and may include a genuine liking for them or looking for a chance to take Viggo’s money, but it’s probably mostly that he desires Kirsten. Taking advantage of Viggo’s ignorance of Greek, Oscar fleeces Viggo for new phony passports, and the three of them take the ferry to Crete to await delivery. Their paranoia grows … and that’s all the plot I will reveal. There are many surprises to come.

There seems to have been quite a few changes from the book, but none of them sound really major, just the tweaks needed to make it a bit more cinematic, such as going to an exotic location like Istanbul. I can’t say I was completely satisfied with the ending, but it’s a minor carp. I liked the acting and the plotting, and I was just wild about the settings. I had never seen much of Crete in a film before. Looks a lot like the Sicily of The Godfather. Semi-barren, but beautiful.