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Movie Review – A Most Violent Year

Whenever I’m choosing my next film to watch, my mom’s voice echoes in my head, “Let’s watch something light and easy!” Well, this next film is not light. And judging by the title, A Most Violent Year, it isn’t easy either. But is it suspenseful, thought provoking, and worth the two hours? Absolutely.

Gangster films are familiar. Their usual violence, overuse of guns, long coats, gelled hair, and New York accents make them cliché and comfortable, even. But if you’re tuning into J.C. Chandor’s 2014 thriller, A Most Violent Year thinking you’ve seen it all, you may need to think again. The slick visuals, the winter coats, 1980s New York, and marriage issues all say: gangster film. But the main character, Abel Morales, keeps saying: not. Though a conformist to all of the previous elements, A Most Violent Year charts unfamiliar territory. It’s a gangster film, sure, but one that’s strangely about morals, hardly depicts violence, and is more aesthetically pleasing than your favorite Instagram – you heard me. And through this, the wonder of the film unfolds.

Oscar Isaac (X Men, Star Wars), dressed in the fineries of Abel Morales, has become the victim of recurrent attacks upon his oil business. His recent acquisition of a company that is booming in the shady fuel business has made him the target of a competitor’s violent attacks. In an effort to acquire one of the most powerful locations in the city, Morales makes an all-or-nothing deal with the owners of the property. All of his life’s savings are placed as a down payment, and he owes thousands of dollars by the end of the week. However, as more and more of his trucks are assaulted, his bank slowly loses faith in his company’s abilities. The local DA is after Morales and pressing corruption charges. Slowly, the cards are stacking against him, and the curtain is pulling on an intricate plan designed for his failure.

With his slowly wavering moral compass and armed with nothing but a cigarette in hand and a carefully guarded set of cards in the other, Morales is unprepared to go down without a fight. His ambitions eclipse any fear and as he so poignantly states, “When it feels scary to jump, that is exactly when you jump, otherwise you end up staying in the same place your whole life, and that I can’t do.”

Anyone with a penchant for period piece films, coordinated aesthetics, or thought provoking movies should watch A Most Violent Year. The pleasantly diverse cast, featuring stars like David Oyelowo (The Butler, Selma), and Jessica Chastain (Interstellar, The Martian), along with a bluesy urban soundtrack, creates an interesting combination. If nothing else, watch it for the final scene alone- after a trucker shockingly twists the plot, Morales uses his handkerchief to–well, I’ll leave it to you to find out.

Bethool is in her second year studying Biochemistry and Philosophy. She loves reading all kinds of books, photography, exploring the great outdoors, and playing music.
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