A Most Violent Year is a searing crime drama set in New York City during the winter of 1981, statistically the most dangerous year in the city’s history.
From acclaimed writer/director J.C. Chandor, and starring Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), this gripping story plays out within a maze of rampant political and industry corruption plaguing the streets of a city in decay.
J.C. Chandor’s third feature examines one immigrant’s determined climb up a morally crooked ladder, where simmering rivalries and unprovoked attacks threaten his business, family, and – above all – his own unwavering belief in the righteousness of his path.
With A Most Violent Year, Chandor journeys in a bold new direction, toward the place where best intentions yield to raw instinct, and where we are most vulnerable to compromise what we know to be right.
What We Thought:
Director J.C. Chandor gets better and better with each film. His debut, Margin Call, was critically acclaimed but left me cold. His follow up feature, Lost at Sea (starring Robert Redford) was a gripping if slightly flawed tale of man against nature. With A Most Violent Year, Chandor has delivered his most fully formed movie yet.
The story follows a business man in New York in 1981, the city’s most violent year. As he tries to stay as ethical as possible, his drivers are under attack, the union is pressuring him, and he’s about to lose a huge deal that could cost him everything.
While the story is interesting enough, it’s the performances that carry the film, especially Oscar Isaac’s. He is completely magnetic, and you simply can’t take your eyes off of him whenever he’s on screen.
As for Jessica Chastain, I know there’s been a lot of attention given to her getting snubbed for an Oscar nomination, but to be host, I don’t think she was. She’s very good in this film, as she always is, but in my opinion, her performance simply isn’t Oscar-worthy. I don’t mean that to be rude; she’s a terrific actress and is in fine form here, it’s just not a performance that I think needs an award.
If the film has any flaws, it’s that it runs just a bit too long. I like the fact that the film doesn’t rush things and doesn’t try to shoehorn action into a drama film, but it could have been just a tad shorter.
Overall, however, A Most Violent Year is a solid drama that is fueled by some amazing performances.