A Most Violent Year is an odd kind of film. It was clearly made to be an awards contender (a cast filled with previous awards nominees, a director formerly nominated for an Oscar, a heavy and dramatic subject matter and an awards season release were my clues), but it’s been almost completely ignored, not even really being a part of the conversation. This has left it in a strange place. Couple that with a lack of advertising, and you only have the film’s above average but not amazing word of mouth to go on. This meant that going in, I didn’t really have any expectations, and I certainly wasn’t very excited. Unfortunately, coming out I felt about the same.
First things first, Oscar Isaac is very good in this film. This is the second film starring him to come out this week (the first being Ex Machina), and he’s starting to show that he’s a very solid actor. David Oyelowo also stands out, and I couldn’t look away during the scenes where the two of them were on-screen together. This is very much an actors film, with good performances across the board. I would probably be mentioning Jessica Chastain too, if only her character wasn’t so annoying.
Unfortunately, this film falls down majorly in one place. While sometimes films benefit from being a single person’s vision, I couldn’t help feeling like writer / director J.C. Chandor could have done with some input from elsewhere. Ten or fifteen minutes cut off the run time would have benefited this film greatly too. There are a lot of slow chase sequences, some scenes that are clearly unnecessary, and a lot of lengthy, lingering shots.
Now that I’ve seen most of this years awards season films, it’s not a surprise that A Most Violent Year didn’t get much attention. It had a nice build, but Foxcatcher was a better slow burn. The story has some unexpected turns, but Birdman was much more interesting. The performances are good, but they’re nothing compared to the ones in The Theory of Everything. That’s really this film’s biggest problem, that nothing about it stands out.
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