A most late review for A Most Violent Year, a film I wish I saw back on opening weekend so I had the time to go see it again. But anyway, the film is set in 1981 and follows the story of Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), the head of an oil company. His company has been robbed of hundreds of thousands of dollars of oil, causing his wife (Jessica Chastain) and his children into financial strife. To get back what belongs to him, Abel sets out to not only protect his workers from further robberies, but to try and get all of the money that was stolen.
A Most Violent Year is the third film from writer/director J.C. Chandor and it may just be his best film yet. Chandor has interested me ever since I fist saw Margin Call. It was a solid character-driven movie that was just a tease of what Chandor had in stall. Then he made All Is Lost, another character-driven movie, except this time around, there was literally only one character... at sea... with a 30 page long script... and almost no dialogue. It was utterly brilliant. Now he brings us A Most Violent Year, and this time he returns to the world of multiple characters for a film that can only be described as glorious.
His screenplay, yet again, is highly character driven. There's very little action and a lot of dialogue, although if you think I'm complaining about that then it's probably best you just go out and see any decent movie ever. Right from the first shot, Chandor brings us into these character's lives. He manages to draw us into this Godfather-like world of crime and violence, and everything after that is history.
But at the core of the film is the relationship between Oscar Isaac and his wife, Jessica Chastain. They're not the focus story-wise, but they're where the film thrives. Their story is exciting and their actions are unpredictable. Isaac does his best to hold everything together, but he knows that when he slips, his wife is going to get her hands dirty, and that's something we know we don't want to see. She manages to show power in their relationship, subtly getting involved with everything he does, and in doing so she becomes one of the strongest female characters of 2014.
However, what's better than the characters are the actors that play them. More specifically, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain. I've been a fan of these two for quite some time, and every time I see them on screen, no matter what the movie is, they always manage to amaze. A Most Violent Year is Oscar Isaac in his prime. He's never been better and this only gets me more excited to see him in Star Wars. As for Jessica Chastain, I still think her best performance is Zero Dark Thirty, but hey, she's almost as great here, if not slightly underused late into the second act.
It's been a day since I saw this movie and what continues to puzzle me is how stunning this film looks. There was something about just sitting and watching A Most Violent Year on the big screen that occasionally put a smile on my face. It's big, it's sleek and, for lack of a better word, it's quite mesmerising to look at. Whether this is simply the look and feel of the film or if it was the wonderful cinematography, I don't know, but either way, I'm pleased.
To sum up, A Most Violent Year is J.C. Chandor's best film to date. It's sleek, it's exciting, it's incredibly well acted, the screenplay is all sorts of brilliant and the cinematography is absolutely beautiful.
4 1/2 Stars