Christian Childress’s review published on Letterboxd:
God, I found this to be so refreshing. A Most Violent Year may be the most impressive thing JC Chandor has done so far. It's both intimate/small and epic at the same time. The way that it tackles so many themes (greed, ethical decisions, corruption, the american dream, power, envy) is remarkable.
Our story follows one man and his pursuit for the "American dream". That mans name is Abel and he's played to perfection by Oscar Isaac (quickly becoming one of my favorites). Many have said his performance is vintage Pacino, I can't disagree with that. But, what sets Abel apart is (for the most part) his strong desire to do thinks the right or moral way. The same cannot be said for his wife, Anna. Anna is a powerhouse of a woman and casting could not have been more spot on with Jessica Chastain taking her on. She's a woman who will support her husband in all of his endeavors but also tell him what is and isn't bullshit. She's a woman who will make her own decisions for the benefit of her family. And she's a woman who demands respect. Oh, it's so good to see character like this.
The year is 1981 in NYC (shot beautifully by Bradford Young) and violence is at an all time high. And that's where we get the heart of our story. Abel is the owner of a gas company that is struggling due to the constant robberies happening to them. Who is behind all of this? Is it a competitor trying to put him out of business? Have the competitors paid off a local DA (David Oyelowo) to investigate Abel's business? How do our characters take on these horrible scenarios they've been thrown into? Or did they throw themselves into these head first? This is what the movie is asking it's audience to answer. I love a movie that doesn't force feed us the answers. As an audience we have the right to make these decisions ourselves, and that's exactly what A Most Violent Year allows us to do.