“Writer/director JC Chandor has really just exploded on the scene, coming out of nowhere. I first found him because his friend and collaborator Zachary Quinto was plugging him pretty hard. Margin Call wowed everyone (me included) and then won him an Academy Award nod for screenplay right out of the gate. He followed up with All is Lost, which while maybe not the most entertaining film (for me at least), was certainly a masterpiece in it’s own right. This year, he brings us A Most Violent year.
Set in New York 1981, a year where the city was overrun with more violence than it had ever seen before, we follow Oscar Isaac’s Abel, as he tries to move his business forward in the midsts of terror and tensions. As was the case with Margin Call, I was enthralled throughout. The wordy but intricate (yet not confusing) screenplay kept me hanging on for what was going to happen. I grew to care for Abel, and his wife Anna (a fiery Jessica Chastain who should have garnered an Oscar nod *sigh*). The one complain story side is that maybe Chandor hit the foreshadowing a little too hard. In an early scene, the man on the other end of Abel’s business deal stresses multiple times that he only has 30 days to get the requisite funds. You just know somewhere down the line he’s gonna be on his knees asking for an extension. There were a couple other moments like that, but otherwise, it was pretty flawless.
Isaac and Chastain were incredible. I’d been hearing much praise for Isaac, but was taking it all with a grain of salt. It was coming from many of the same sources who praised him last year in Inside Llewyn Davis, which while a good performance, I didn’t like the film at all. But no, the acclaim here was worth it in its own right. He was a Don Corleone without the blatant corruption (there were hints that some corruption may have existed, but it was never surfaced). When I heard one scene where he was speaking perfect Spanish, I knew he must be some form of Hispanic (Guatemalan, I later found out) and I loved him even more.
And wow Jessica. I tend to like her more when she’s feisty (more Zero Dark Thirty than The Help) and oh man did she deliver here. I’d read that she started the basis of her character from her nails. She had long nails that suggested a feminine fragility, but when provoked, you realized those were her claws. Everytime I noticed that manicure, I’d just smirk to myself, knowing we’d see her light up soon, and boy did she.
Walking out, I overheard a pair discussing the film. Saying how it was wonderfully acted and very well done, etc etc etc. I concur wholeheartedly.
A Most Violent Year – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”