Film Review: “A Most Violent Year” (2014)

A Most Violent Year - Poster

Is there a way to reach the top without any violence? It is certainly possible in the 21st century, while I double it was the same a century ago… Back in 1981, an ambitious immigrant, who carries no weapon, struggles to protect his business and family. After investigation of his business he is about to undergo charges for avoiding taxes for the last two years. Right at that time a man with a gun appears at his front door.  This is when Abel Morales decides to reconsider his approach towards his problems. How far will this man go to stay as clean as possible during the most dangerous year in the city’s history?

Films like “A Most Violent Year” seem to have disappeared from the silver screen and can be rarely found nowadays. Thankfully, following his vision and clear plan – J.C. Chandor writes and successfully translates his script onto the big screen, allowing us to enjoy and be reminded of what we have been denied – quality cinema. The music by Alex Ebert is so mesmerizing, that it’s hard to imagine any other melody in it’s place. Bradford Young’s (“Selma”, “Pawn Sacrifice”) cinematography is unbelievably realistic and fits the era. I believe that’s exactly how many New Yorkers would remember those times.

“A Most Violent Year” follows Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) and his wife – Anna (Jessica Chastain), whose small business prospares. However, some people cannot come to terms with his success. They threaten Abel’s people and go after his company’s fuel trucks. While Morales tries to deal with the problem, two other problems pile onto the already existing one – further complicating his life and jeopardizing everything he has worked for. He fears to be accused and arrested for stealing money from the government by hiding his real income and avoiding taxes –  a crime, which he denies.

It’s fantastic to see how “A Most Violent Year” captures the viewer’s attention from the very beginning and keeps it during the entire film. Clearly, J.C. Chandor is trying to recreate the era that scared so many people; at the same time, he does it in such a calm and serene way, that one can even feel their own heartbeat.  No background music or distracting noise to take you away from the plot. Chandor does his best to avoid anything that could possibly ruin his film; and does it in such a beautiful way that it is almost impossible not to enjoy his film, which will remind you of the era of “Once Upon A Time in America” and “The Godfather”.

Oscar Isaac, who plays the ambitious immigrant Abel Morales, delivers a Godfather-type of performance without using a single weapon. This makes me assume, that if Hollywood ever remakes “The Godfather” or another iconic mafia film, Oscar Isaac should have the lead role. Jessica Chastain transforms herself into his wife. I must say, she is well capable of bringing even more danger than the city’s most dangerous year altogether. Elyes Gabel’s convincing performance as Julian is also worth mentioning.

In conclusion, those of you, who enjoy high quality picture, will appreciate “A Most Violent Year”, which centers around good performance, emotional dialogues and an engaging and certainly entertaining story. It’s a dramatic film about the time when one fearless man could take every opportunity to grow his business, to survive the hardship and become one of the most influential people in New York City. And that brings up a question – whether there is anything that can scare this fearless man, except maybe, the time that was considered the most violent year? Well, I guess each viewer has to answer this questions form themselves after watching what I’d call “the most unusual film made since the year 2000”.

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