After struggling to get a real foothold in Hollywood, Oscar Isaac finally seems to be receiving the recognition his talent deserves. His first big leading role was in the Coen Brothers’ Oscar-nominated Inside Llewyn Davis. Isaac’ss got two films out this week which showcase other facets of his talent. Whilst quietly impressive in Ex-Machina, it’s in A Most Violent Year where he gives his best performance to date.
New York City in 1981 was not the best time or place for an honest businessman. In a period where New York almost went bust, Abel Morales (Isaac) runs a heating oil company. He’s worked hard to build the business up from scratch, whilst avoiding the shadier side of his wife’s, Anna (Jessica Chastain) gangster family. Whilst on the verge of a huge acquisition, his drivers are being targeted. At the same time an inspector from the DA’s Office (David Oyelowo) is looking to bring charges against him for corruption.
JC Chandor (Margin Call, All Is Lost) has taken a subject which could easily have turned into a violent and luridly unpleasant affair. However, the pacing is perfect, shifting the emphasis from action to drama. When the violence does happen, it’s fast and terrifying. Oscar Isaac brilliantly manages to portray a man trying to adhere to his moral codes when all the evidence suggests he should follow a much murkier path. Abel is a charming and likeable man who also has a hard edge, that makes him someone not to cross. Isaac’s performance is reminiscent of a young Al Pacino. A Most Violent Year is a quietly studied and unassumingly powerful film; another impressive outing from Chandor.
A Most Violent Year is out in cinemas now.