Tense, beautiful - "A most violent year"

In the excellent film 'A most violent year', Oscar Isaac is like a young Al Pacino but without the histrionics.

He is Abel Morales an upcoming immigrant businessman who wants to do the 'most right' in the woefully corrupt and violent New York City of the late 70s and early 80s. He has done well for himself but his opponents are catching up. How long can he survive doing the right thing? The odds? As is wont with them, are stacked mountain high against him.  He must fight his nebulous opponents, his loving yet scary wife and his partners and colleagues who may or may not be on his side.

Above all, he must fight the seduction of violence.

That is one of the films many contradictions. 'A Most Violent Year' is laughably devoid of violence by our unfortunate modern standards of brutality on screen or in real life. However, the tense moral drama created brilliantly by J.C. Chandor focuses on the inner conflict, the emotional violence of survival that often requires extreme measures that go contrary to our belief in civilization itself. 

The film is shot beautiful in warm, winter glow. It takes its time and keeps us paying attention, rooting easily, if often hopelessly, for its understated yet stately protagonist. 

Jessica Chasten plays an interesting, if somewhat underutilized character as Abel's wife with shaky morals and a violent background. However, her roots serve as perhaps the most beguiling temptation of all. 

This is a brilliant film. Drop everything and watch it now.