The shivery, sexy suspense of a Hitchcock thriller is deliciously dished out in The Two Faces of January. Screenwriter Hossein Amini (Drive), in a potent directing debut, explores the psychological depths in the 1964 novel by Hitch favorite Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley).
On a vacation in Greece, rich American Chester (Viggo Mortensen) and his young wife, Colette (Kirsten Dunst), encounter Rydal (Oscar Isaac), a guide with a knack for conning pretty tourists. As ever in Highsmith, nothing is as it seems. Rydal has the hots for Colette. And Chester, who reminds Rydal of his father, harbors secrets of identity that lead to murder.
Amini handles the mythological subtext of the story with seductive skill. You can’t help being drawn in. Dunst excels, uncovering hidden layers in Colette. Mortensen and Isaac, expertly exchanging the faces of loyalty and betrayal, are both outstanding. Is the film too old-school for short attention spans? Maybe. Rest assured that Amini’s shuddery endgame is well worth the wait.