A Most Violent Year
after watching Oscar Isaac's performances in Inside Llewyn Davis and Ex Machina, i made a mental note to check out some of his other work. this one is from 2014. Isaac portrays a successful immigrant oil supplier in 1980's New York struggling with fierce competition, while trying to maintain his moral standers.
firstly, perhaps the most outstanding part of this movie is the cinematography. really beautiful work. the image is very crisp, rich and detailed. beautiful colour palette. almost reminiscent of a fincher movie in that way.
plot wise, the film itself is very nicely grounded, and almost never allows itself to enter bloated cinematic territory. the setting, the difficulties Isaac's character has to face, the measures he takes to try and save his business - it all feels very authentic, true to life, and plausible. that is something i can't truly say about any other film i'd watched off the top of my head, so in that regard it's innovative and interesting.
it may come at a price, of being slightly slow or less cathartic than standard cinema or whatever, but all in all i found it refreshing. the film also does a pretty good job of clearly conveying the somewhat complex plot to the viewer without making the storytelling obvious or expository.
Isaac's acting is good, as always tbh. he operates on a fairly subdued emotional scale as an actor, and it is my personal experience that he's fairly menacing in almost anything i'd ever seen him in (barring Llewyn Davis, where he was beautifully vulnerable). in this movie he is basically playing a (good?) man who refuses to compromise his morals, and most written material on this film i'd read (reviews, trivia etc) plays along in praising the character for it, but me personally, i saw somewhat of a dark side to that character that nobody seems to talk about.
while Isaac's character stays true to his moral compass, he does make some chillingly ruthless decisions, and in spite of his personal decency, there is more than a hint of him being cold as ice, almost incapable of feeling empathy for other people's pain (or disregarding it in favor of his personal gain).
anyway. another thing i liked about this movie, was its setting. barely any periodical movies these days are made about the 1980's. it's always the same old 40's-50's-60's. which is cool too, i guess, but it does get stale when every other movie does it. this was refreshing - seeing a depiction of the 80's the way i remember it as a kid, and not exaggerated or parodied.as far as pop culture is concerned the 80's were just a neon haze of people with outrageous haircuts, ludicrous music and shoulder padding. but i mean there was more than that.
bottom line: it's a bit too low-key to honestly fully recommend, but it was pretty good.