Cleanly written with intelligent dialogue and an astute visual/sub textual aesthetic; J. C. Chandor has an unmerciful eye for drama. With his latest entry A Most Violent Year the cards are laid out earnestly and with no sleight of hand. Everything, even down to the most unsubstantial of activity is justified. In a world where it’s hard to believe that everyone but the hero flows through some vein of corruption, whether up front in its allegiance or hidden away in some form of official adversarial stature, A Most Violent Year is a most perfect example of how to create an enthralling and complex story.

The year is 1981 and you guessed it, it is a most violent year, statistically the most violent year recorded in New York’s history. Abel Morales (ten points for guessing the play on words) is expanding his business and capitalising on the misfortune of the cities decay, the legal way. The external threats and pressure to his business and family grow in occurrence and severity as he shows with unparalleled willpower that he can overcome these odds and not succumb to the temptations of our darker nature; never a truer test of one’s moral fabric has been put under scrutiny.


We are gifted with the perfectly cast acting abilities of the up and coming star of Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) Oscar Isaac and an in-depth, complex character portrayal from Jessica Chastain; never has the tenderness and ferocity of human emotion been more evident than here. The characters are defined, always on point and never unjustified in motivation. It is only through the constant internal battle of veering from the path of the virtuoso (if you’d consider the path of righteousness to be an art in itself – let’s face it; the command of self restraint vs. the indulgence of one’s desire… how can that not be articulate?) onto a morally ambiguous, perhaps law breaking direction that drama, within these circumstances, shines and MY GOD does it shine brightly! If you view this film with anticipation of what the title suggests on a surface level you will be disappointed with the outcome. If you look deeper and perceive what violence there is in conjunction with the hugely insightful and sub textual context of the thematic core, it’ll be one of the best films you see this year.

You will be immersed in a constant aura of professionalism and visual prowess. Where so many others have attempted to create such works and have failed, this bold and elevated achievement doesn’t originate from just one pocket but in its entirety as a production.


Albeit A Most Violent Year hasn’t quite reached the auteur status of such films as The Godfather (1972) – yes, unfortunately this film and Isaac’s portrayal will be compared to such works. It’s a damn solid entry into what will be a hugely successful career for Chandor and one I personally can’t wait to see develop. See this as a stepping stone for a writer/director who’s on his way to becoming a cinematic great.

Verdict: A Riveting Cinematic Achievement.

A Most Violent Year is on wide theatrical release now.