A Most Violent Year
Director: J.C. Chandor
Writer: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, Albert Brooks, Elyes Gabel, Elizabeth Marvel, Alessandro Nivola
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 28.10.2015
[Review by cornholio.]
Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) is working hard to make the company he has taken over from his wife Anna’s (Jessica Chastain) family a thriving success. But as they can finally make an offer on a plot of land that would give them a significant advantage in the business, they hit a snag: the trucks carrying the oil they are selling keep getting robbed. When Abel tries semi-official channels to try and figure out who’s targeting him, he comes under scrutiny of D.A. Lawrence (David Oyelowo) himself. Now he has only a week to fulfill the stipulations of the deal on the land, keep his business afloat and himself out of jail.
A Most Violent Year is a strong film that is always engaging and has great cast. But it does have a few weaknesses as well.
When you have a cast headed by Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain and David Oyelowo, you not only have a cast that is comprised by some of the most talented young actors currently working in Hollywood, you also show that you can make an entire movie where white men don’t have to be at the center of things at all and it doesn’t have to be a plot point. I loved that, even if it meant that Elizabeth Marvel was relegated to a three minute part (if that) and a single line.
I also loved the setting and the way the production design and the camera capture the 80s. I don’t think that they ever looked so stylish, which was pretty amazing.
But even though the quality was so high, I am uncertain about how much I like the film’s message or story. It seems to assume a universal hunger for power that I can’t really subscribe to. And Abel – who is obviously posed as the moral center of the film, a man who tries to do right – is later revealed to not try to do the right thing at all, but to choose the “most right” thing in a sea of wrong options. And while I am not a fan of moral absoluteness, I think that going for “most right” is making things a little too easy on everybody, especially since nobody addresses the question of “most right” by whose standards?
I was also very happy that Anna as a character existed because A Most Violent Year otherwise espouses a completely patriarchal fantasy of the benevolent head of business who takes care of his employees as the ideal case. Anna provides at least a little counterweight against that.
But even with my doubts about the film and a few lengths towards the end, A Most Violent Year is an engaging piece of cinema.