Showing posts with label Albert Brooks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Albert Brooks. Show all posts

19 January 2015

Film Review - A Most Violent Year (2014)

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Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Distributor: Icon Film Distribution
Release Date: 23rd January 2015 (UK)
Running Time: 125 mins
Director: J. C. Chandor
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, Albert Brooks

1981 is on record as statistically being one of the most dangerous years for New York City.  As well as being a dangerous year, it is also my birth year, so I sat down to enjoy this film thinking about those The Year I Was Born books that you got given as ‘original’ gifts as a child, eager to find out about New York City, in the year I was born.

The film follows Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac; Ex Machina, The Two Faces of January) and wife Anna (Jessica Chastain; Interstellar, Zero Dark Thirty) as they try to succeed with their oil trading business in the most violent year.  Business has been up and down for them, someone has been stealing oil from their tankers and they are being threatened with legal action from the DA for various accounts of embezzlement, but they are in the process of purchasing a large warehouse facility to greatly expand their business.

When a film is called A Most Violent Year you’re expecting a level of violence, so I spent a lot of the film waiting for something to happen, which kept me on my toes. However, the film is not about the city and the violent year, the story is more about an immigrant trying to do well in business and life, with crooked business associates, in a crooked business, in a violent city.  The nods to the violent year are achieved by radio snippets about shooting peppered throughout the film.

Jessica Chastain’s performance is standout and the highlight of the film, Anna’s moral compass slightly scewed to get the job done and to do right by the business and her family.  She skirts round questions from her husband about how legally they’ve been working with such class, very much aware that their competitors are just as crooked as they are.

One of the more interesting characters is Julian (Elyes Gabel; Interstellar, Game of Thrones), a driver who early on the film has his oil tanker stolen at gun point. He is then, after much debate, given a gun to protect himself, however he is really not emotionally ready to be back on the road. Abel is too preoccupied with financially concerns to fully sympathise with his employees state of mind, and as a result Julian handles his situation badly.  Girls fans like myself will also be pleased to see Christopher Abbott as one of the hijackers, who puts in a fine and gutsy performance.

A Most Violent Year is a subtle, suspenseful but rather slow moving at times, however an interesting portrayal of a well meaning man trying to do right in a violent and crooked world.  Though entertaining enough, I don’t think the film packs the punch which it promises.

Side Note - For old times sake I just dug out my copy of The Year I Was Born book, which tells me that on my birthday an ex-Trappist monk hijacked a Boeing 737 flying between Dublin and London.  He did this by covering himself in petrol and demanding the plane changed location to Iran, but being a short distance flight, the plane only had enough petrol to go to Paris.  When they landed in Paris, in discussions with the police the ex-monk's demands did not include any financial gain, only that Pope John Paul II make public a series of apocalyptic visions and prophecies called the Third Secret of Fatima.  I hope I’m not the only one thinking that this story would have made a far more interesting movie than A Most Violent Year.


Alice Hubley