Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Most Violent Year (USA, 2014)

Nine Things About the Movie A Most Violent Year

1. Despite the title, this movie is not that violent. And it all takes place in 33 days. The title just means "New York City, 1981" because that's when the movie takes place, and it was one of the most violent years in New York History.

2. You could kind of call this movie "The Anti-Godfather".

3. It's about an immigrant, Abel, running an energy fuel company, slowly building his American Dream. Abel is trying to expand his dream honestly, even though he knows that he has to bend the rules sometimes. Unfortunately, his competitors are willing to bend more rules than he is.

4. When an ambitious district attorney comes after him for suspected illegal activities, Abel finds himself feeling pressure from every imaginable direction. He is forced into a series of decisions that will either chip away at his dream... or his ability to remain uncorrupted.

5. Abel, (played by Oscar Isaac, from "Inside Llewin Davis"), is one of the most interesting characters I've seen in films for quite awhile. He's not a hero, nor is he an anti-hero. He can't commit enough to one side or the other. You never quite know if you're supposed to root for him or not.

6. Jessica Chastain is wonderful as Abel's wife, who provides more support to him than he wants to acknowledge. David Oyelowo (who will forever be known as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in "Selma") is excellent as the district attorney whose loyalty to justice serves his own ambition.

7. Even though this movie is over two hours long, and isn't focused on action, the script and the pacing is strong enough that things don't get boring.

8. There is also a constant, low-boil atmospheric tension throughout the film. As soon as Abel seems to have a plan for the current problem, others pop up. You can almost physically feel Abel's optimism and energy fade away.

9. This is a smart, well-told story. It's a gangster movie about not being a gangster. And it illustrates the idea that sometimes there are no right choices in life, so you have to go with your next-best choice.