THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY. Magnolia Pictures, 2014. Viggo Mortensen, Kirstin Dunst, Oscar Isaac. Screenplay by Hossein Amini, based on the novel by Patrica Highsmith. Directed by Hossein Amini.

   Filmed on location in Greece and Turkey this handsome and intelligent suspense thriller based on a novel by Fort Worth-born suspense novelist Patrica Highsmith (Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley) is in a different key from most of today’s films. There are no car chases, monsters, or superheroes involved, nothing leaping out of the screen at you, and no gore, just human beings caught in their own webs of lies, deceit, and passions.

   Rydal (Oscar Isaac) is an American tour guide in Greece who finds himself attracted to sophisticated and wealthy American tourist Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Colette (Kirstin Dunst) who befriend him after a day of visiting the sights in Crete. It seems like a brief flirtation for Rydal, but soon escalates into something more when he spies Chester trying to hide a body.

   MacFarland is an embezzler and his clients have hired a private detective to find him and bring him back to the States. When he kills the man, he is forced to enlist the naive Rydal to help hide the body and get them off the island and to Turkey with new papers, and Rydal, who has eyes for Dunst and is fascinated by Chester, agrees all too eagerly.

   Despite the handsome full color locations the film is more akin a film noir than a glitzy modern tale. The triangle between Rydal, Colette, and Chester is complex, with Rydal almost as seduced by the charismatic Chester as by the beautiful younger Colette.

   And of course things begin to unravel almost immediately. Tensions rise between the two men and between husband and wife, she is attracted to the younger man as her husband becomes more jealous, and soon the three are at each others throats.

   When a tragic accident occurs, Rydal finds himself even more implicated, and must betray Chester in order to keep his own neck out of a noose.

   As with most of Highsmith’s books and characters there are no easy answers or clear cut heroes or villains. There are degrees of guilt and innocence and shades of dark and light to all the characters. Colette was all too happy to go along with Chester so long as it was comfortable and there was money, Rydal all too eager to seduce another man’s wife and abet a murder, and Chester a victim of his own greed and desire for his younger wife. No one is innocent and no one fully guilty, all trapped by their own weakness and desire.

   The Two Faces of January is one of Highsmith best known novels and gets a handsome screen production here. That it might have been more taut in black and white in the era it was written for is more about our expectations for contemporary films than any real criticism of the film itself. As an intelligent dark exercise in modern noir that satisfies on all levels it is hard to find a flaw in it, and I haven’t seen any better examples of the form in recent years.

   The mid-section sags a bit, only because the director lingers a bit too long on the novelistic approach to developing the characters, but that is a small complaint about an intelligent suspense film of a type they really don’t make them like anymore.