Today: July 18, 2024

A Most Violent Year

Writer/director J.C. Chandor’s profile has continued to rise in recent years through ambitious and diverse output. His critically acclaimed, Oscar-baiting All Is Lost (2013) demonstrated his ability to coax a poignant yet complex performance out of Robert Redford with little-to-no dialogue. Whilst 2011’s Margin Call proved he could tackle contemporary issues in a dramatically reflexive way. You can always accredit Chandor for his honourable cinematic intent, yet it can sometimes feel as though his concepts surpass his execution. Not to say he lacks the skill to realize his concept(s), rather there’s a continual strain to find that magic that could make his films that bit more.

A Most Violent Year frustratingly continues this trend. With confident and poised performances, irresistibly captivating cinematography (courtesy of Selma‘s Bradford Young) and a decidedly innovative take on the well-trodden American Crime film, something still remains amiss. Set during New York City’s most violent year since records began, our story follows Abel (Oscar Isaac) and Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain) who are fighting to build their industrial empire amid rising theft, violence and corruption. Their staunch pursuit of success forces them to consider less ethical solutions. This overbearing, singular theme drives the Morales’ plight. As with Margin Call and All Is Lost, Chandor challenges his audience by asking ‘what choices would you make? how far would you go?’. However, such noble contemplation never guarantees a great film; especially when curated so heavy-handedly.

Both Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain maintain their course as two of the year’s most majestic stars with convincing, enigmatic performances. Yet Isaac, whilst powerful and complex, struggles to avoid handing in his best Godfather Pt.II Al Pacino impersonation. Meanwhile Chastain’s tour de volatility, though captivating and viperous, hints at a circa-Casino Sharon Stone. This criticism may be cynical, but these comparisons are somewhat justified; especially in certain climactic scenes they share in their newly inhabited mansion. However, Albert Brooks and David Oyelowo provide welcome support respectively as the brooding, restrained advisor and newly appointed DA.

Intriguingly, Chandor has made the first anti-Gangster film by simultaneously immersing himself in this iconic world whilst proclaiming there are other, more principled, routes one can choose in the face of criminality in order to achieve the American Dream. This should be respected and most likely will separate it from other defunct genre-fodder. However, due in part to the simplistic narrative and an unnecessary melodramatic idealism, you can’t help but feel it fails to hit its intended mark. By all means, A Most Violent Year is a film to be watched and admired by a large audience. Just perhaps not held in such high regard as its creators believe it should.

Previous Story

Luc Besson’s Leading Ladies

Next Story

Into The Woods

Latest from Blog


Memory (2023)

Memory is an exquisite American drama in the tender embrace of Michel Franco’s cinematic prowess.


Following early screenings, Longlegs mania became something bigger than anyone could have predicted. After an eerie and ambiguous marketing campaign made up largely of short, cryptic teasers, hype was already pretty high

Inside No 9 Complete Collection Unboxing

Earlier this year, one of the finest television creations in the history of the medium came to a poignant conclusion after 9 impeccable seasons. Over 55 self-contained episodes, Inside No 9 made

A Bittersweet Life Unboxing

Taking a brief detour from horror, Second Sight Films have given their much-loved Limited Edition treatment to South Korean neo-noir thriller A Bittersweet Life (2005). Filmmaker Kim Jee-woon may jump wildly around

The Conversation Unboxing

Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece of paranoia The Conversation celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and StudioCanal are marking the occasion with this utterly beautiful Limited Edition 4K UHD Blu-ray release that even

Halo Season Two Unboxing

While the Halo TV series continues to be controversial with longtime ‘fans’ of the franchise for petty reasons, this year’s explosive second season certainly marked an improvement over the first. With better
Go toTop

Don't Miss

Columbo: The Complete 1970s Collection

The concept was groundbreaking: a murder mystery in which the


From Hotel Del Luna, to All of Us Are Dead,