It’s no good checking your brain at the door with this latest offering from J.C. Chandor. A Most Violent Year is a sublime piece of cinema, beautifully shot and with a well crafted script. Using the environs of New York, but never actually venturing into the metropolis, the Manhattan skyline is used to great effect, providing a kind of punctuation to exterior scenes as the story progresses. Whether in sharp focus or a virtual smudge on the screen, west of the Hudson or East of The East River, it’s beauty provides a welcome backdrop; a reminder of place, and when considering the era in which the narrative is set – 1981 – a reminder that crime and corruption lies within. The kind of crime and corruption that Abel Morales, played by Oscar Isaac, abhors and wants no part of.
To assume naivety on Abel’s part, when considering his forthright vision for business progression, would be somewhat disingenuous. A bitter stubbornness to not court unwanted police investigations would be more apt. There is a dichotomy to his business prowess and his assumption that his company bookkeeper – who also happens to be his wife – is towing the conformity line, following “standard industry practices”, is very much an indicator of “what I don’t know won’t hurt me“. When facing obstacles that threaten to derail his company’s expansion, whether from law enforcement or disruptions to daily business activities, Abel shows what it means to have come this far and not be thwarted. Success is a finely balanced perception and to walk its course requires bravery beyond measure. Here we have a conflicted man, who certainly does not want to take the path of least resistance.
Strong performances from both Mr. Isaac and Jessica Chastain, as his wife Anna, provide the viewer with an on-screen couple who are a (business) force to be reckoned with. Mr. Isaac has certainly started 2015 with two very strong films, while Ms. Chastain adds yet another top-drawer showing to an already impressive CV. In addition, it was an utter pleasure to see Albert Brooks playing Abel’s confidant Andrew, while David Oyelowo as District Attorney Lawrence is once again a great addition to the cast. Suffice-to-say J.C. Chandor is fast becoming the “new-kid-on-the-block” to watch out for. With A Most Violent Year he delivers a highly assured piece of work to the silver screen and his writing isn’t bad either!
Thank you for reading 🙂