1981: Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th President of the United States; 69 days into his Presidency John Hinckley failed in his attempt to assassinate him; Pope John Paul II, also wounded by a crazed assassin; Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, was not given a stay of grace, was murdered; Iran Hostage Crisis, concluded; the Aids Virus diagnosed. Violence pulsated worldwide but in New York City it was explosive: 2,100 murders, 120,000 robberies, car-jackings struck and terrorized the unsuspecting.
Writer/director J. C. Chandor’s “A Most Violent Year” focuses on an immigrant and his family whose business is perpetually threatened by unknown competitors; truck drivers assaulted, thrown from their vehicles; stripped of the home- heating -fuel they were legitimately supplying to their customers. It is 1981, racketeering, graft, violence throbs throughout the industry. Grippingly filmed, brilliantly written and acted, “Abel Morales” is an honorable man, in a moral-less society. Oscar Isaac is sensational, like “Richard Cory” “clean-favored and imperially slim”; he imbues Abel with an integrity so refined it refuses to be shattered under excruciating circumstances; impeccable grooming and a lush camel coat camouflage harrowing emotional obstacles; Abel is intransigent, never faltering, following the righteous, principled path. Isaac bestows upon the viewer one of the most profound performances in recent years.
Jessica Chastain is remarkable as Abel’s wife “Anna”: wise, tough, a gangster’s daughter, bookkeeper for the business (inherited from her father); she tempers Abel’s idealism with resilient, heavy-duty realism; capturing the sensuous allure of an 80’s femme fatale; ultimately a contemporary “Demeter”, a goddess protecting her family.
Thought-provoking, astounding “A Most Violent Year” grippingly rips at the heart of unlicensed, unyielding crime, simultaneously depicting a morality treatise; reminiscent of Job’s tribulations; Abel Morales, a man to emulate, even envy his resolve.
FOUR & 1/2 STARS!!!!