A Most Violent Year
Produced by Before The Door Pictures
and Washington Square Films
Directed and written by J.C. Candor
Distributed by A24
I went to J.C. Chandor’s new film A Most Violent Year with high expectations. His first, Margin Call, was simply the best cinematic examination of the 2008 banking crisis we’ve had to date: literate, moving, funny, and, above all, convincing. His second film, All Is Lost, was something of a stunt—a nearly wordless drama of a lone rich man navigating his high-end sloop through the harrowing of the Indian Ocean gone mad. Both films examine how wealthy, accomplished people respond to extraordinary stress. This is not a new theme, certainly, but what distinguishes both movies is Chandor’s nearly pitiless reflection on where hubris leads.
A Most Violent Year explores the same theme. As with his earlier films, Chandor displays a tact and discipline uncommon to the screen, but this time his story seemed to me overly buttoned down. When I first watched it, I concluded that it suffered in virtue of its own restraint. On a second viewing, however, I changed my mind. Yes, the film could be more exciting, but its quietness was integral to its drama. Its central characters have navigated themselves into a cultural sea change in order...