A Most Violent Year
4.4/5 MUST must see SEE
dir-scr JC Chandor
prd Neal Dodson, Anna Gerb
with Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, Alessandro Nivola, Albert Brooks, Elyes Gabel, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Peter Gerety, Christopher Abbott, Ashley Williams, John Procaccino, Glenn Fleshler
release US 31.Dec.14, UK 23.Jan.14
14/US Participant 2h05
A Most Violent Year
The last good guy: Isaac and Chastain

ovelowo nivola brook

33rd Shadows Awards

R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
A Most Violent Year A vice-grip of a movie, this low-key drama skirts around the mobster genre with finesse, mimicking its central character's efforts to stay out of the criminal fray. It's a delicate balancing act for filmmaker Chandor and lead actor Isaac, but it pays off by leaving the audience with plenty to chew on.

Abel (Isaac) has built his heating-oil company into a contender in crime-ridden 1981 New York, and a new import-storage facility will push him into the big leagues. But the mob pushes back with tanker hijackings, a threatening home invasion, an indictment from the DA (Oyelowo) and wavering loyalty from his bank, whose loan is essential at the moment. Assisted by his lawyer (Brooks), Abel dismisses asking for help from the gangster dad of his extremely involved wife Anna (Chastain), even as she pushes him to sort out the mess.

Abel's quiet determination to do the right thing is mesmerising. He rejects corruption and violence as part of the business. He fights the union leader about arming his drivers, arguing that it would make things worse. And in the film's one overtly on-the-nose plot strand, Abel's young protege Julian (Gabel) ends up right in the middle of the moral chaos. All of the performances are packed with honesty and steely focus, relying on internal willpower rather than flashier emotions.

Isaac gives Abel a strong backbone that never feels strident. He's a good guy in a dodgy culture, and he'll only bend if it's a matter of survival. Cleverly, both Chandor and Isaac portray his watchful, soft-spoken approach as strength in the face of the swagger that usually defines "success". In a feistier role, Chastain rips up the screen beautifully, including a couple of expertly staged show-stopping moments. Gabel offers the emotional kick, even if his final scene drifts over the top (not his fault, he plays it perfectly). And Brooks is unusually, and marvellously, contained.

Superficially slow and dull, the film relentlessly churns us up. As everything squeezes in on Abel, gusts of morality swirl around the characters. This is never a story about a heroic good guy caught in a compromising situation; it's about the daily decisions that reflect our character. Are we so afraid of others that our first reaction is violence? Are we so desperate to accomplish our task that we ignore the rules? Yes, it's not about a struggling 1981 businessman at all: this is where Western society is right now.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 24.Nov.14

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