A MOST VIOLENT YEAR is possibly 2014’s best film. It is certainly the best film of 2014 without a single Oscar nomination. That is astounding because the film could easily have acquitted itself in all of the major categories (Picture, Director, Acting and Screenplay). That is, IF it had been considered. By the way, it’s opinions like these and a taste for films like this that may explain why I’m not any more successful in this business than I am.
…VIOLENT YEAR is flawless and superior in every way to that movie that I said I wasn’t going to say anything more about. You know, the one that’s been reigning #1 at the Box Office for five straight weeks. This film is superior to that film artistically, structurally, technically, and – most important – morally. It does not purport to tell a “true story” but its story rings true and authentic in terms of the human condition. It does not claim to be “based on actual events” but the events here stand up to scrutiny from all sides. YEAR is less violent than the current #1 movie in America but it’s violence packs more punch because it feels like real violence: unchoreographed, often driven by fear, usually pitiful.
There’s no hero in VIOLENT YEAR we feel compelled to worship or emulate. And that’s a good thing. Hero worship has a nasty history of clouding national judgment and interfering with individual moral compasses. That said, I don’t think we have to be cynical about heroism. We should be cynical about the way heroism is co-opted by politicians, pundits and preachers alike.
At the core of A MOST VIOLENT YEAR there is a man striving to do the right thing – even for the right reasons. The heartbreaking truth that this movie vividly portrays is how often small compromises undermine our lofty principles. This movie has a clear moral point of view but it does not have a simplistic one. In that regard the story and its characters feel at times like they are some modern translation of an Old Testament text.
(A MOST VIOLENT YEAR is Rated R for language and violence – but neither seemed to me to be gratuitous.)