A Most Violent Year

DRAMA; 2hr 4min

STARRING: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo

Feeling the heat: Isaac and Chastain

Nineteen-eighty-one was one of the most out-of-control years in New York’s chequered history and an exacting time for the likes of heating-oil company owner Abel Morales (Inside Llewyn Davis’s Isaac). Abel is under siege from the district attorney (Oyelowo), who is accusing him of across-the-board fraud. His trucks are repeatedly hijacked. An interloper leaves a loaded gun at his front door. He’s on the clock to close a crucial deal on a neighbouring property. Having worked his way from the bottom up, Abel and his enterprising wife, Anna (Chastain), are as elegantly greedy as jaguars and practised connoisseurs of corporate envy. “They’re taking shots at me because I’m growing,” Abel says, with a power hunger he never thinks to question.


Writer-director J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost) squirrels inside the psyche of escalating panic with such well-crafted certainty that every gesture is significant. There are no obvious heroes in an amoral wasteland where brutality begets itself but Abel is the closest equivalent to a guiding star, holding tight to his frontwards compass as certainty crumbles around him.