Starring: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo
Director: J.C. Chandor
Running Time: 125 mins
A Most Violent Year is an American film about the winter of 1981, statistically New York City’s most violent in history, and the man who attempts to get through legal investigation and the growth of the mob with a clean, honest business.
This is by far the most inappropriately-titled film of all time. I’m sure it was a most violent year in reality, but the film contains so little violence that it’s quite tough to really get a sense of that. Of course, the violence is not the most important thing, but apart from the strong performances, I couldn’t seem to find my way around how dull this film is: it’s slow-paced, lacking in mystery or excitement, it looks very boring, and it’s ultimately very predictable.
I’ll start with the main positive about this film, however, and that was the performances. Oscar Isaac, David Oyelowo and especially Jessica Chastain are fantastic in this film, and they really manage to capture their characters’ motivations and allegiances in this story very clearly, which is something that helped to make the whole film a lot more comprehensible when I got fed up of the story, but to be honest, that was this film’s only real saving grace.
Apart from that, I was bored stiff by this whole film from start to finish. Of course, I gave it a chance, and tried to stick with the story for the first half an hour, but it moves so incredibly slowly, and features some of the longest, most drawn-out and seemingly unnecessary dialogue scenes I’ve seen in a long time, which didn’t create any atmosphere or tension at all, and it left me hugely uninterested as I tried to slog through what I thought was just a slow start.
But it isn’t. This film then drags its story out over another very long-winded hour and a half, and apart from two or three (still largely uninteresting) scenes with some actual violence, there’s nothing more to be had from the story, seeing as the character development doesn’t really happen until all at once come the end of the film, and there seems to be a drop-off in actual historical context, leaving this as just another gangster movie.
Finally, one of the things that I hated about this film so much was the directing and the cinematography. Director J.C. Chandor has received praise for creating a ‘dreamlike’ feel to the film to mirror the American Dream, but I couldn’t get past the fact that this film looked so drab and lacking in any vibrant colours. I know it’s not meant to be Alice In Wonderland, but when I can’t actually bring myself to look at what’s on screen for half of the film because it just looks so ugly, it’s not a good thing.
Overall, this gets a 5.5, because despite excellent performances, the story is painfully slow-paced, predictable and simply boring to sit through, while, to me, its appearance is absolutely tedious.