Saturday, 31 January 2015

Review: A Most Violent Year

World of Blackout Film Review

A Most Violent Year Poster

A Most Violent Year
Cert: 15 / 125 mins / Dir. J.C. Chandor / Trailer
WoB Rating: 5/7

A far more nuanced film than the title would suggest, A Most Violent Year is a certainly performance-based piece, rather than narratively. That's not to say that the story's lacking at all, but it's certainly pretty linear, with the escalation of events riding a steady, upward curve throughout.

Oscar Isaac channels his best Frankie Valli as Abel Morales, a legitimate businessman trying to expand a domestic heating oil company in New York in 1981, and whose competitors are somewhat less scrupulous when it comes to what they see as professional rivals. A little like the second-act of Scarface but with less blow and more admin, the film is beautifully shot, even if it feels like the Instagram Earlybird filter is turned up full-belt for the whole two hours. Isaac isn't alone of course, and the dramatic weight is shared by Jessica Chastain giving a performance full of barely restrained fury.

Despite setting the mood perfectly, it can feel like the narrative's holding something back, even during its infrequent moments of promised violence. The escalation of the events in the story is a little linear, but I give it a pass for Chastain and Isaac alone, notwithstanding a strong supporting cast headed by David Oyelowo. Isaac seems to flourish more in vintage or period roles than he does in modern ones, and I'll be interested to see what he brings to Poe Dameron in December's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where the setting will be undeniably otherworldly, but with director JJ Abrams' retro-aesthetic applied to the saga.

Quietly enjoyable if a little underwhelming on the dramatic front, is A Most Violent Year a story which needed telling?
Not particularly, but it's a gorgeous looking and fluidly told one nonetheless.

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
Perhaps not. Orange Wednesday or Cheap Tuesday for this one.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
It's probably a buy-er, but once it comes down to about a fiver.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
I'd say it's up there, certainly, but I also think there's better to come from the central cast.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It probably does.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not really.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There ain't.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Oscar Isaac will appear in 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, while David Oyelowo is the voice of Agent Kallus in Star Wars Rebels.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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