Writer/director J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost, Margin Call) is quietly building a resume of mature, thought-provoking films and A Most Violent Year is arguably his best picture yet. It feels like the work of a seasoned vet -like the capstone at the end of an already accomplished career- but this is only Chandor’s third feature. He shows incredible restraint as a director and has a knack for no-frills storytelling.
A Most Violent Year takes place in NYC in the winter of 1981, statistically the city’s most violent year. It’s the story of an ambitious immigrant and his wife (Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain) who risk everything to expand their business despite dealing with rampant corruption and street violence.
It’s a credit to Chandor and talented cinematographer Bradford Young (Selma, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) that the movie feels like it was shot in 1981 and not just made to look that way. It wears it’s cold and gritty look naturally and evokes the era without overdoing the costumes or relying on a soundtrack with hits of the time. There are several longshots with the old skyline in the background and everything looks authentic. It feels like a Sydney Lumet flick and that’s one hell of a compliment.
Oscar Isaac uses his emotive eyes to great effect and turns in a weighty performance. It’s the kind of movie that requires a strong lead and Isaac embodies Abel Morales, the savvy businessman who tries to follow the right path but is constantly tested. Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, and Albert Brooks are all solid in smaller roles.
A Most Violent Year is now getting a wide release. It played on a few screens at the end of 2014 and qualified for awards season. Jessica Chastain received some love in Best Supporting Actress categories, including a Golden Globe nomination, but otherwise the film was largely ignored. It received zero Oscar nominations and is one of the most slept-on films of “2014”. Chandor displays maturity beyond his years and delivers an old-fashioned movie, expertly told, with heavy themes and complex characters.
4 out of 5 Nerdskulls
Check out the trailer:
A Most Violent Year is now playing in Houston at Sundance Cinemas and Edward’s Greenway Grand Palace 24.It is also playing at Cinemark at Market Street in The Woodlands. It will expand to more theaters Friday.
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