A Most Violent Year

by | Jan 29, 2015 | 0 comments

An Interesting Subject and a Great Cast Aren’t Enough to Pull Us Through.

J. C. Chandor is not mainstream. The director has made films such as Margin Call about the 2008 stock market crash, All is Lost about an old man lost at sea, and most recently with A Most Violent Year. While the artistry is still there with A Most Violent Year, the pace is a little too slow for our liking.

A Most Violent Year is the story of Abel Morales (Inside Llewyn Davis’ Oscar Isaac) a Hispanic immigrant who has fought his way up honestly to the top of a gas company in New York City. It’s 1981 and NYC is crawling with crime, Morales’ trucks are constantly hijacked and he is losing a lot of money. Morales believes that his competitors are behind the attacks, but even so he refuses to play dirty despite the pleas of his lawyer, Andrew Walsh (Albert Brooks) and his vicious wife (Jessica Chastain) to save his company.

The story is simple enough, but the negotiation talks and the long camera pans, while lovely, drag a little too long. The film’s two hours could have easily been one and a half. Faster pace would have given a more gripping effect so as to keep the audience’s rapt attention. Despite that, there are some extremely enjoyable scenes, especially a chase scene in which we see the state of the NYC subways in the 80s.

The performances are great, Oscar Isaac once again proves he can take on leading roles, after his breakout performance in the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. But the real star of the show in Jessica Chastain, whose mastery of the role and simple gestures show her expertise and skill. Thanks to her petitions she was able to get the costume department noticed as well; she thought that her character would only wear Armani, being the daughter of a rich gangster. Thus the costume department was able to track down dresses from ’81, and have Chastain’s character stand out amongst others visually as well.

The lighting is very appropriate for the theme of the film. Abel seems to be constantly in darkness, whether while he’s strolling around his house or negotiating at his office. In contrast the outside and NYC is extremely bright, almost as if evoking a sense of hope. The presence of snow is also used in a purifying manner (showing it pure white, when all city-people know that their snow is never white).

The film is evocative, but the lengthy feel is deafening and ends up sucking too much of your energy.



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