Review: A Most Violent Year
Choosing to do the right thing has its price, and this is the dilemma at the centre of JC Chandor’s A Most Violent Year. A slow burning drama, a moody and suspenseful thriller, but above all, a moral fable; A Most Violent Year tells a simple story, but when in the hands of an incredible storyteller and outstanding acting, it is compelling in every way. This is the kind of film that deserves to be upheld as a classic; a genre piece at its very best, and an underrated character for the ages- Oscar Isaac as Abel Morales is a moral superhero.
Judging by the title and by a lot of the film’s marketing, you may go in expecting a very different kind of movie. In actuality, A Most Violent Year is richer than most crime dramas, as it develops all of its characters and gives all of them their own juxtaposing moral centres. Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) owns his own heating oil business. He is an immigrant and his own idea of the American Dream motivates his actions to overcome all obstacles to be the strongest company within this line of business. He is in the middle of finalizing a contract to gain a new property that will change the game for him and his family-yet in the midst of this 30 day closing, everything goes wrong.
Set in the winter of 1981 in New York, which statistically is one of the most violent years in America’s history, Abel’s company comes under attack. His trucks are being robbed, his drivers are constantly putting themselves into a dangerous position simply for doing their jobs, and his family’s lives are being threatened. His wife, Anna (Jessica Chastain) is as strong a female character as they come, as she isn’t just the typical supporting wife to the film’s star. Anna has her own intentions and her own game plan, and through the love she has for Abel and her children, and the disdain she holds for her father who only through dialogue we can tell is very opposite to her right-doing husband, she commands equally as much attention and power in her own right.
Both Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain deliver awards worthy performances, which are both miles above many of the most talked about and celebrated acting displays this year. Abel and Anna are one of the strongest, even while flawed, couples to grace the screen in some time. The whole cast is flawless. Albert Brooks, David Oyelowo and Elyes Gabel are on par with the films stunning leads.
Everything about the film sucks you into it for its whole run. It’s never boring or meandering-it is spot on, intense, and thrilling. JC Chandor makes this simple, almost dull sounding plot something that will challenge and attract viewers. A Most Violent Year is a crime story whose strongest moments aren’t even about the crime, but about the decisions we make in order to make a good, honest, living without having to resort to violence-even if it may pinnacle its characters into a dangerous position. Every moment of this film is filled with importance and meaning, and it deserves its place amongst the films that inspired it-as a classic.