Film Review – A Most Violent Year (2014)

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Title – A Most Violent Year (2014)

Director – J.C. Chandor (All is Lost)

Cast – Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, Albert Brooks, Elyes Gabel, David Oyelowo, Alessandro Nivola

Plot – Set against the backdrop of New York City 1981, one of the most violent years recorded in the city’s history, businessman Abel Morales (Isaac) and his wife Anna (Chastain) struggle to close a property deal that could see them either make or break their company in the midst of ongoing criminal acts being perpetrated against their employees and property.

 “When it feels scary to jump, that is exactly when you jump, otherwise you end up staying in the same place your whole life, and that I can’t do”

Review by Eddie on 6/07/2015

With his debut in 2011 with the brilliant dramatization of the early beginnings of the GFC in the Oscar nominated Margin Call, his follow up with the brave and well liked All is Lost and now with the critically acclaimed and somewhat forgotten about third feature A Most Violent Year, filmmaker J.C. Chandor is very quickly becoming one of the industry’s brightest young talents and a model of consistency.

Quite possibly the least gangster gangster film ever made, A Most Violent Year sees Chandor enhance his directional abilities to all new levels and where Margin Call saw him master the art of the script and his actors and All is Lost the art of storytelling almost entirely through visuals, A Most Violent Year sees a combination of highly impressive elements combine to create one of the year’s most fully formed and competent films.

A Most Violent Year is one of the those films that’s so finely constructed, you’d be hard pressed to find a single weak component, right down to the way in which violence doesn’t drive the film as the title may suggest, merely plays out in its background as a master puppeteer, as heard frequently in the radio chatter our characters listen to. Chandor’s direction and screenwriting is the work of someone assured of their material and displays a finesse not normally seen in a filmmaker so young into his career which combines perfectly with the behind the camera work of increasingly impressive D.O.P Bradford Young (going along with fine work on Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and Selma) and the moody musical score from Edward Sharpe front man Alex Ebert suggests that he and Chandor could just become perfect artistic collaborators after this and All is Lost.

With all this artistic merit on display, at the heart of Chandor’s tale lies an incredibly intriguing and undoubtedly slow burning story of people trying to “take the most right option” in their quest to achieve their goals. Front and centre to this journey is Oscar Isaac’s driven business owner Abel Morales, one of the most layered characters of recent memories that allows Isaac to deliver another hugely energetic turn in what’s quickly becoming one of the most interesting acting journeys in the last few years. Isaac’s interplay with all involved here is incredible and with Jessica Chastain’s feisty turn as Abel’s not easy to read wife Anna, A Most Violent Year will keep those viewers that are willing to enjoy the slowly rising tensions on offer, glued to their seats with anticipation.

There are some very slight narrative missteps that stop A Most Violent Year from becoming a near perfect example of both a morality tale, a tale of ambition and a dramatic thriller of the highest calibre but as it stands Chandor’s film is one of the year’s most impressive all round productions that plays out against the backdrop of an intriguing, violence infested, true to life time in the history of New York City, where men and women like Abel and Anna battled daily for their survival both metaphorically and figuratively.

4 and a half unhelpful dogs out of 5

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25 responses to “Film Review – A Most Violent Year (2014)

  1. Great review! Couldn’t agree more… I liked the way you put it, the violence off-screen being the master puppeteer. Couldn’t agree more, some people complained that there was no violence in this, but there is a ton of it!! It just lurks in the background, hanging over the film.

    Good stuff mate

      • Couldn’t agree more, though I still need to see All Is Lost. Isaac is also turning into one of the most versatile actors out there, compare his character here to his character in Ex Machina! Guy is a chameleon

  2. I thought this was great and I am still disappointed that it didn’t get an Oscar nod since it was a lot better than some things that did.

  3. An insightful review – fantastic central performances, especially from Oscar Isaac who shapes a character with such integrity. The film is like the antithesis of The Godfather.

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