Credit: Atsushi Nishijima

Director J.C. Chandor turns back the clock to 1981, one of the deadliest years in New York City history, for A Most Violent Year, an action-packed drama (due this fall) about surviving the American dream. Oscar Isaac plays Abel, a principled gas businessman whose growing profits bump up against the New York underworld. His wife, Anna (Jessica Chastain), has some Brooklyn connections who might be able to lend some muscle when rivals start hijacking their gas trucks. “Her father and brother are well-connected on the wrong side of the law and Abel is not,” says Chastain. “There are certain things he won’t do, [so] she thinks maybe she has to. Like, maybe I have to be the man, too.”

The film is definitely a larger and more ambitious canvas for Chandor, whose first two movies were critically acclaimed indies. “Margin Call was in an office, All is Lost was one man on a boat,” says Chastain. “This film has the scope of the world. This is New York in 1981.”

In the film, the couple were high school sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks, though Chastain’s Anna has plenty of Brooklyn grit and edge. “I’m always looking for ways to make my character not sweet,” says Chastain, who preps for her characters by making a list of things her character says about herself and things that others say about her. “It’s rare in an American film.”

A Most Violent Year

  • Movie
  • 125 minutes
  • J.C. Chandor