sprizzle’s review published on Letterboxd:
Al-Most A Really Good Film.
Actually, it is a pretty good film. It's close to being great. It suffers from a lack-luster script. Which is too bad because with a better script, the acting, cinematography, editing, all would have came together to make one of the best films of 2014.
Oscar Issac and Jessica Chastain play a force to be reckoned with. In command of a gas company in 1981 New York City, one of the most dangerous years to be living in that particular city (hence the title). They are raising a family and raising their business, trying to take over the market and stay above water all at the same time. It gets dicey, it gets violent, it keeps you focused and puts you on edge. It's impossible to tell which character will have the next outbreak, and that leaves you watching the whole movie through your squinting eyes. The two leads are fantastic.
J.C. Chandor does a pretty good job as well. At least on the directing side of things. The movie looks fantastic. Just as much credit needs to go to the art department, costume, set design, make-up, etc. It has this look that doesn't REALLY convince me it's 1981 but has a style all it's own and looks cool as hell. The framing in this movie is immediately noticeable and impactful. Credit there goes to Bradford Young, the cinematographer behind Selma, another movie that I thought looked excellent. That guy has talent. Come to think of it, I don't really know exactly what Chandor added to the experience. I haven't seen any of his other films so it's hard for me to say if his fingerprint was really on it at all. But I'm sure he had a hand in getting those performances out of Chastain and Issac which is impressive enough.
It wants to be Goodfellas so bad. It wants to be the Godfather. But in the end, the story doesn't feel like those classics. It feels kind of forgettable. Many pieces were in place but unfortunately this movie doesn't deliver the whole experience. I'm sure there are fans of this movie that will defend it. It's the kind of movie that's good enough to have fans. It just didn't really stack up for me personally.