A Most Violent Year

Oscar Isaac, A Most Violent YearMissed this December 2014 crime drama (trailer) in theaters, but finally had a chance to watch it on the small screen. Oscar Isaac, who was quite likable in Inside Llewyn Davis and even stronger here, does a fine job as Abel Morales, head of a New York City heating oil company; Jessica Chastain, always good, plays his wife. Morales’s trucks are being hijacked and his drivers beaten up by—who?—shady competitors, ambitious freelancers, organized crime? With his drivers and sales people at risk, the default of everyone around him is to arm themselves (which makes for some pretty scary scenarios in city traffic), but Morales resists.

He wants to remain an upstanding businessman, to keep taking the high road despite the growing chaos around him. This includes a lengthy and apparently stalled investigation by the city prosecutor (David Oyelowo) of financial sins in the heating oil industry and Morales’s company in particular. Morales is aided in his endeavors by the somewhat ambiguous character of his lawyer (Albert Brooks) who has the patience for long negotiations. As one protracted land acquisition looks about to successfully conclude, the other difficulties piling up put it out of reach again.

What was solid about this movie was that the business dealings seemed plausible and important, not just made up in the usual Hollywood way. The film was written and directed by J. C. Chandor, and in our cynical epoch of anti-heroes, he’s made Morales someone you want to see succeed. “There’s less violence that you would expect, given the film’s title, but the scenes of moral suspense prove just as breathtaking as the episodes of physical jeopardy,” said Jason Best in Movie Talk.

The plot took unexpected turns until the final resolution, and, whatever, viewers have many chances to see the most beautiful (and magically dirt-shedding) camel-hair coat ever!

Nice Rotten Tomatoes critics’ rating of 90%; audiences 70%. The film garnered numerous awards and award nominations, as did the acting and directing.