Crime gets a new look

J.C. Chandor’s third feature is a stylized, fresh look at the crime thriller genre.

Mary Strother, Writer

What it feels like to live in fear for your family, your life and your business is the central concern of Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) in director J.C. Chandor’s third feature, “A Most Violent Year.” For Abel, the lengths he will travel in order to protect what he has worked hard to achieve are obstacles that do not phase him — whatever he wants, he will receive. The film centers around this owner of the booming Standard Oil company in 1980’s New York. It follows him and his cunning wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) as they deal with challenges to their business and personal lives.

I had the pleasure of attending the world premiere of “A Most Violent Year” at the opening night of AFI Fest on Nov. 6 in Los Angeles. The film is set for limited release in Los Angeles and New York on Dec. 31, with a wider release to follow in January. Director J.C. Chandor and stars of the film including the two leads, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, were on hand to introduce the film.

Long expected to contend in this year’s Oscar race, it is easy to see why “A Most Violent Year” will be well received by audiences and critics. The script, also written by Chandor, is intelligent and gripping, using the setting and time period almost as characters themselves. It is full of rich atmosphere and dramatic tension, which paves the way for brilliant performances from Isaac and Chastain.

Isaac’s performance particularly has been compared in early reviews to Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in “The Godfather” films, this comparison seems apt. Isaac portrays Abel Morales as compromising, resourceful and yet full of a quiet calm that makes his occasional outbursts particularly threatening. However, Chastain holds her own against his formidable talent and plays Anna Morales as supportive yet fiercely defensive and scheming, determined to take the risks that her husband will not.

The film proves a technical achievement in directing and cinematography, and the story is intriguing and brought to life by two wonderfully talented actors. For these reasons alone, “A Most Violent Year” is certainly a film to catch in theaters later in the year. 

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