A Most Violent Year follows a month (in defiance of the film’s title) in the life of Abel Morales, an oil supplier who has thirty days to close on the biggest deal of his career but finds himself plagued with a series of incidents which begin to affect both his business and his family.
Despite only being director J.C. Chandor’s third feature film, A Most Violent Year is handled with the skill and finesse one would expect from someone with ten times his experience. Again in spite of the film’s title, A Most Violent Year is fairly low-key, for the most part the plot is advanced solely through scenes of dialogue and it is to Chandor’s credit (he wrote and directed AMVY) that the film never feels dull.
A Most Violent Year has a cast which should leave most fans of contemporary cinema drooling, to name a few: Oscar Isaac in the lead as the morally driven Abel, Jessica Chastain as his rather less-morally driven wife and David Oyelowo as the district attorney trying to control the corruption fueling the business from which Abel has tried so hard to make an honest living.
As one would expect the performances a masterful all round, with Isaac’s and Chastain’s at the forefront of these. The scenes between this couple are probably the strongest in the film, Chastain being at once the naive and deviant daughter of a mob boss and Isaac as the honourable, ambitious entrepreneur who faces a conflict between becoming the best in his business and succumbing to the corruption in his industry that he so despises.
However the main star of A Most Violent Year is undoubtedly the visuals, and huge credit must go to Bradford Young (Selma, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), the film’s director of photography. A Most Violent Year simply looks astounding, the film’s crisp visuals and fantastic lighting immediately transporting you to a cold, winter morning in 1980’s New York. Light brown, blue and grey dominate the film’s palette, with everything from Abel’s coat, car and house somewhere on this spectrum.
A Most Violent Year is a great film which I’ve had the pleasure of seeing twice now. Despite receiving critical acclaim on release it struggled at the box office, so if you get a chance to see it, and have been in anyway compelled by what I’ve said here, then I would implore you to do so.