As awards contenders rise and fall in the last-minute deluge of film premieres and screenings that is November, one movie that continues to stick with this particular writer is J.C. Chandor's “A Most Violent Year.” Sure, that seems silly considering the picture only debuted two weeks ago, but context is everything. We'll spare the names of the three other contenders I've seen since, that I need to remind myself I've actually seen. That's how impressive Chandor's period thriller is.
Set in 1981, “Year” centers on Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), a self-made businessman who is trying to take his New York City area oil heating business to the next level. While his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) takes care of the books, Abel is in the process of securing a new headquarters for the company, which will help make it a powerhouse. That is until his business comes under siege from criminals hijacking his trucks. Abel believes his competitors are using these extreme measures to steal his oil and damage his business, but he's got other problems. He's also under fire from a criminal prosecutor (“Selma's” David Oyelowo), who believes his company is guilty of fraud and tax evasion. Can the seemingly always calm and cool Abel weather the storm? Chandor's deliberate direction and Isaac and Chastain's stunning performances make finding out the answer an impressive cinematic ride.
The movie isn't opening in limited release until Dec. 31, but A24 Films has exclusively provided HitFix with a fantastic two-minute clip to for your viewing pleasure. The scene finds Abel instructing his newest sales recruits on how to convince prospective clients to change their oil heating service, even if their company might cost a little bit more than the competition. And when one of his employees think the tactics are funny? Well, let's just say Abel is not amused.
The clip is a perfect example of why Isaac, who missed out on Academy recognition for “Inside Llewyn Davis,” deserves serious consideration to land his first Oscar nomination for “A Most Violent Year” in January. Even in what is arguably the most competitive field ever, it's hard to argue he shouldn't make the top five. And this clip, which you can watch in the embedded video at the top of this post, only proves that point.
“A Most Violent Year” opens in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 31.