A Most Violent Year: Another success for J.C. Chandor

Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain deliver great performances in A Most Violent Year, written and directed by J.C. Chandor.If it were up to me, Chastain should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actress over Laura Dern.

Writer-director J.C. Chandor follows up Margin Call and All is Lost with this gritty film. There aren’t too many directors that start off their career with three solid feature films in a row. The last one that I can recall is Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air). All of his films deal with an escalating crisis or meltdown. A Most Violent Year proves to be no exception.

Courtesy of A24 Films

Isaac and Chastain headline a cast that also includes David Oyelowo, Alessandro Nivola, Elyes Gabel, Catalina Sandino Moreno, and Albert Brooks.

The crime drama is set in New York City during the winter of 1981, a year that has been described as being the most dangerous in New York history. There is a maze of political and industry corruption on the streets of the city.

Isaac stars as Abel Morales, a Latin immigrant who aims for the American Dream. However, he has to do so by living and working in a city dealing with violence, corruption and decay. It doesn’t make it easy but he’s determined to climb up the ladder. He does so while dealing with rivalries and unprovoked attacks on his business, family, and his own belief in the righteousness of his path.

This is a new direction for Chandor but it’s also a bold one. He takes us to that place where even the best intentions can go wrong and that the key players are vulnerable to compromise what they know to be the right thing to do.

Oscaar Isaac and Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year. Courtesy of A24 Films

Chandor takes us through three days in the life or Morales (Isaac). Married to Anna (Chastain), Morales is trying to build a heating-oil franchise that he purchased from his father-in-law. Morales made a vow to run a legitimate business but the ladder, he finds, is morally crooked.

The gray areas are explored behind the choices Morales makes in order to advance, the compromises that he accepts to protect his family, and the consequences of the decisions he makes and how they impact other lives. A Most Violent Year isn’t just an intimate examination of an outsider that transforms himself into a business magnate, nor is it just a glimpse at New York City enduring change during a dangerous period. What Chandor is able to do is analyze the cost of doing business and what people will go through to achieve success on their own terms.