Opening 19 Mar 2015
J.J. Chandor, writer /director, debut film was the gripping Wall Street drama Margin Call (2011), followed by All Is Lost (2013) with Robert Redford. A Most Violent Year is equally impressive – a character-driven, psychologically powerful drama. New York City is especially crime-ridden in 1981. To expand their heating oil company, Abel (Oscar Isaac) and Anna (Jessica Chastain) Morales are in negotiations to buy riverfront land. A down payment gives them 30 days to come up with the two and a half million needed. Concurrently, tank trucks are being hijacked and the oil stolen, staff mugged, and their home is stalked, testing the Morales’ resourcefulness and their lawyer’s (Albert Brooks) astuteness. Breathing down Abel’s neck is the resolute, and skeptical considering those involved, District Attorney (David Oyelowo). Abel’s response is abhorrently clear to offers of help, physical and otherwise. Still, he wants to protect his family, and expand. But just how clever is he, how loyal are other key players, and will it make any difference.
Chandor is now three-for-three delivering engrossingly cerebral dramas. Transcending generic violent mobster flicks, its déjà vu aspect is as a morality period piece. Leading the strong cast is Isaac’s believability as Abel; debonairly assured in doing business ethically, just as Chastain’s Anna emits contrary viewpoints yet is fiercely loyal. Ron Patane’s editing is congruent with Bradford Young’s refreshingly energetic cinematography; Alex Ebert’s music weaves golden threads throughout. No mistaking, you will jump in your seat and hold your breath along the way; the momentum is tense making for an absorbing watch, just as Chandor is a director to keep an eye on. (Marinell Haegelin)