On the Silver Screen – A Most Violent Year
J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year is a crime drama set during 1981 -the most violent year in New York history- focusing on immigrant business owner Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) who tries to run his business legitimately in an era of corruption.
The cast of this film all do a stunning job. Oscar Isaac seems right at home in this sort of role. Many have compared his performance to Al Pacino’s portrayal of Michael Corleone and I’m hard pressed to disagree. The characters are quite similar in a lot of ways from them starting out being really naive but gradually becoming more embroiled in a corrupt world and learning how to thrive in spite of it.
Jessica Chastain is great here as Abel’s wife Anna. Her New York accent tends to fluctuate between off and on quite a bit but it’s a very powerful performance throughout. I liked her character and how she was portrayed as being almost the true power behind the throne. It was somewhat reminiscent of Lady MacBeth in the way she manipulates her husband to do whatever she wants. She’s clearly the stronger of the two characters as shown when she shoots a wounded deer out of mercy without hesitation where Abel is incapable of doing so.
Impressive turns by David Oyelowo as District Attorney Lawrence and Albert Brooks as Andrew Walsh add to an impressive list of talent that have plenty of opportunity to bounce off each other in dramatically impressive ways.
It’s all very well well acted and beautifully shot but I had significant problems with the execution of the story. Throughout the narrative there was a definite sense that the story was building to some kind of tense and inevitable conclusion but the film just never delivered. I’m not against the concept of films with long dialogue scenes as long as the dialogue is engaging to listen to but I never got on board with what was being said or what was going on.
I did like the idea of the violence being an ever present threat that could rear itself at any time. There are hints of it affecting Abel and his business but it never really goes anywhere. It’s clear that Chandor wanted the film to be more focused on tone rather than plot which does work for some people but I generally prefer a combination of the two
I can’t say that this film does anything badly but it really wasn’t to my tastes.
Any scene that did move the plot forward was great to watch and it’s a pleasure to see these powerhouse performances playing off one another but I wish the narrative was more focused on plot rather than tone. I found it increasingly difficult to get through the whole film.
I don’t have an awful lot to say about this film as it didn’t make a great impression on me but if you were a fan of J.C. Chandor’s other films then this will definitely appeal to you as it’s quite similarly constructed. In many ways it’s worth a look for the performances but it is a tough watch.