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Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Most Violent Year (2014)

New York, 1981. An ambitious businessman (Oscar Isaac) owns a fuel company that is expanding to the point that it is a viable threat to his competitors. He is an honorable man in an often dishonorable business and trying to stay that way and keep clean. But his wife (Jessica Chastain) is a piece of work and maybe not so honorable. One of the most intense films I've seen in quite awhile. The director J.C. Chandor grabs you at the very beginning of the film and continues to squeeze until the end credits. It's a tough and tight little thriller though to call it a thriller is perhaps unfair to the film. It's also rich in character with two strong central performances by Isaac and especially Chastain who gives us a contemporary Lady MacBeth. If you've seen Chandor's MARGIN CALL, then you'll recognize his style and how if he can make a film about the impending stock market disaster a thriller then this is a piece of cake. The narrative is rather complex and Chandor gives us the time we need to soak it all in so we won't get confused. Even so, there are some minor contrivances that stand out (at least for me) but not annoying enough to mar the film. The supporting cast is very strong and include Albert Brooks (almost unrecognizable), David Oyelowo (quite good), Catalina Sandino Moreno, Alessandro Nivola and Elyes Gabel, an actor I'm not familiar with but impressive enough that I'll keep an eye out for his future work.

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