THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY makes a welcome present for those longing for some polish to add the thriller shelf, and maybe a whiff of Hitchcock. Taken from a Patricia Highsmith mystery novel, written and directed by Hossein Amini, this gives you 96 minutes of now-what-will-they-do?, set in Greece and Istanbul. Not only that but it takes place in 1962; the sense of time and place come across especially well, like looking at old color postcards of a vacation from before the era of tacky fast food joints were parked next to ancient treasures and there weren’t masses of bored tourists snipping dodo photos of each other with their cell phones.
An American couple, Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst, gadding about Athens, come across charming, but slightly shady tourist guide Oscar Isaac—and it spoils the neat plot to say more other than that they all get tangled in a web that spins out of control. Sophisticated danger.
Tension without jarring editing, engaging dialogue without coarse profanity, relationship dilemmas without gratuitous posturing. Photographed in a unmannered old-fashioned style, it’s a constant treat for the eyes as the trio wind their increasingly worried way from the Parthenon to locales in Crete that feel like you’ve dropped back into a period where travel had discovery rather than packaging. The three actors are excellent, with Mortensen getting the best showcase. His fans will approve. The international gross came to $13,552,000, unfortunately not nearly enough to cover a $31,000,000 price tag. With Yigit Ozsener, Daisy Bevan and Darren Warshofsky. 97 minutes.