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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Two Faces of January

A strange love triangle and psychological drama

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 19, 2014 -- A very dangerous and tangled affair between three people in Europe becomes increasingly desperate as they flee police in Greece, Crete and Istanbul. This is a very tense thriller and psychological drama with excellent performances from the cast.

Rydal (played by Oscar Isaac of “Inside Llewyn Davis”) is a young con artist and tour guide in Greece, fleecing tourists and skimming money on a variety of deals, when he crosses paths with tourists Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortenson of “Eastern Promises”) and his wife Collette (Kirsten Dunst of “Spider-Man 3”). Rydal is immediately attracted to Collette, and Chester reminds him of his father, with whom he had a difficult relationship.

The MacFarlands hire Rydal to show them around Athens, and they become chummy, having dinner together. Everything seems normal enough. Collette tells her husband that she likes Rydal, he replies “I wouldn't trust him to mow my lawn.” Soon after, a private detective shows up at their hotel room. Then the MacFarlands are on the run. Not for the first time, it seems.

Rydal, who happens to show up at the hotel to return a bracelet that Collette left in the cab at a key moment, witnesses some of this. He agrees to help the MacFarlands to escape the authorities. Rydal arranges for fake passports for the MacFarlands and takes them to Crete to wait for the passports to be delivered. Slowly, Rydal begins to learn how much trouble he and the MacFarlands are in. There is a murder investigation and the police are after the MacFarlands, and there are far more dangerous people than the police after them as well. But Collette and Rydal are drawn closer together as the stress mounts, and he stays with them.

From Greece to Crete to Germany to Istanbul, the situation gets increasingly desperate. The police get closer to catching them. This is a well-written and well-acted movie. The relationships in the triangle at the center of the film are not easily made convincing, but excellent acting makes it work. Viggo Mortenson, in particular, does a great job of playing a very complex character. He can be very charming or very dangerous, depending on the situation, but he is deeply in love with Collette. He at first seems like a man with no morals, but there is a spine of morality in him.

Rydal is also a complex character. He agrees to help the MacFarlands because he likes them. At first, it looks like he is only in this for the money, but it is more than that. He is deeply attracted to Collette. When it becomes obvious that she is in a dangerous situation not of her own doing, he wants to take her away to safety and let Chester handle his own problems. Later, the situation becomes even more tangled. This is a very solid thriller with a lot of compelling emotional complexity. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2014 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)