Film Review: A Most Violent Year

A Most Violent Year, the third feature from writer/director J.C. Chandor, is a crime-drama set in New York City during the winter of 1981, statistically the most dangerous year in the area’s history.

It sees husband-and-wife, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, inadvertently embroiled in a world of political and industrial corruption within the cut-throat oil business. Isaacs, an immigrant living out his own version of the American Dream, tries to do things the right way and act with honour and righteousness as he grows his successful business. His opponents are not so scrupulous.

Isaac is superb as a man trying to remain good when all around him are prepared to go to any lengths to destroy his empire, while Chastain reveals an increasingly edgy side as his loving beau.

As well as being aesthetically stunning (the snow, the 80s outfits, the unfussy yet beautiful photography) the film is deliciously slow-burning. It takes its time in allowing the story to reveal itself, holding back as much as it gives away, which creates a simmering tension from start to finish. It feels like something awful is perpetually just around the corner, yet the narrative continually pulls itself back. All of the main characters too, seem to have an aggression which sits just below the surface. Isaac plays a likeable, yet oddly frightening protagonist, Chastain’s character seems to hide a dark past.

Impressively and interestingly, A Most Violent Year doesn’t contain a huge amount of violence, but rather allows intelligent storytelling and character interaction to deliver an enthralling and gripping watch throughout.

The film will be released in Australia on February 26, 2015.

bobby townsend


Review by Bobby Townsend.