A Most Violent Year ★★★★½

Wow! After seeing more than a dozen great films in 2014, I didn't have one that stood out as my #1. I have 14 films all rated 4 stars that were vying for the top spot. Until A Most Violent Year. This film just blew me away, just like Margin Call in 2011, with it's thrilling and intelligent atmospheric gravitas. The layers of complex storytelling and outstanding filmmaking craft present here just make it rise to the cream of the crop. It's just a notch down from Chandor's perfect directorial debut, Margin Call.

Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain deliver searing performances and showcase why they are both at the top of the acting game. Isaac especially deserves recognition for giving one of the best performances of the year. It's a shame that this film came out so late in the year and didn't gain any traction with critics and Academy Award voters.

The production design, cinematography and music create a subtle but thrilling mise en scène that transports you to 1981 instantly and made me want to stay there from the first frame to the last. DP Bradford Young is fast becoming one of the most interesting cinematographers in the game, with Pariah, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Selma and now A Most Violent Year. I can't wait to see what directors and films he brings his incredible eye to in the coming years. He just makes every frame, whether digital or film, come to life with gorgeous lighting and movement.

J.C. Chandor has really taken the independent filmmaking world by storm with his three films over the past four years. While All Is Lost didn't grab me as much Margin Call did, largely due to it's lack of dialogue and people to keep my brain busy, A Most Violent Year shows again that Chandor is a master screenwriter with smarts and passion completely dedicated to telling great stories his way.

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