Expanding its release on Jan. 30, 2015, cryptic “A Most Violent Year” earns critical acclaim but was snubbed by the Academy. From the outstanding performances to the dramatic score, writer/director J.C. Chandor (“All Is Lost,” “Margin Call”) once again has created a stylized drama that gets to the souls of his characters and exposes their motivations and inner savagery. However, don’t be fooled by the title; this slower-paced film contains only a few scenes of violence and only covers approximately one month of time.
Set in New York City during 1981, the city’s most violent year, the film cynically portrays the “American Dream” in its biggest city. Having worked from the bottom on up, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) has placed himself in a good position in the city’s heating oil business. Working on a contract to secure a larger location with river access, Abel and his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) have dreams for their family’s future while risking everything they have on the deal. But a high crime rate has put their drivers at risk as thieves target trucks. One such driver, Julian (Elyes Gabel), suffers a broken jaw and other injuries, but his return to work puts Abel’s company at even greater risk because of his fear. Meanwhile, Abel’s lawyer (Albert Brooks) attempts to manipulate positive relations for Abel with bank representatives and the government representatives, headed by Lawrence (David Oyelowo), investigating Abel’s business. As Abel attempts to protect his family and his company, he sticks to honesty and hard work rather than giving into the violence and grit surrounding him; he refuses to accept the easy solutions.
A film full of talent in front of the camera and behind it, “A Most Violent Year” maintains the quality viewers expect of Chandor. The whole cast is great, but Chastain radiates in her role and has received numerous nominations for her performance as the constantly calculating wife, but she was surprisingly left off of the list of supporting actresses nominated for an Oscar. Complementing her ferocious performance and other intensity of the film, composer Alex Ebert stirs tension with his 80s-inspired score, invoking a touch of mobster stories and a sinister tone; his talent for the dark, nostalgic sound is reminiscent of “Drive.”
A cynical depiction, “A Most Violent Year” questions purity in business and politics. Innocence and naïveté don’t pay, are rare, and will get either tainted or destroyed by the system. And hard work and honesty will only get you so far. The film illustrates a cold, gritty world eager to challenge at every turn, a destruction of the American ideal.
Rating for “A Most Violent Year:” A-
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“A Most Violent Year” is playing in major theatres in Columbus, including Gateway and AMC Lennox, Easton, and Dublin. For showtimes, click here.