2015 will be quite the onscreen year for Oscar Isaac. Having made his big breakthrough as the testy troubadour in Inside Llewyn Davis in 2013, we'll be seeing him this December in a galaxy far, far away when Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens. But before that he has two great films opening in the same week: artificial intelligence twister Ex Machina and this one, a moody thriller about the American Dream, what it takes to make it and the moral and monetary compromises you make along the way.
Isaac's Abel Morales started out as a delivery driver and now runs a home heating business, serving customers across New York. He has a beautiful wife (Chastain) and family, a plush new home and huge plans for expansion. But Abel is also a man on the edge.
As he prepares to conclude the biggest deal of his life, Abel's fuel-filled tankers are being stolen and his business has come to the attention of an Assistant District Attorney (Oyelowo) as part of a price-fixing investigation. Over the next three days Abel must make the toughest of decisions about his future.
Read our interview with Oscar Isaac here.
The title is a bit of a misnomer: A Most Violent Year suggests bodies galore in car boots and bin bags, but there are actually only three (arguably unnecessary) scenes here where force is used - and we're not talking Scarface. Instead, this story - set during 1981, when crimes in New York reached unprecedented levels - is a Sidney Lumet-style slow-burner about a man who has "always done the thing that is most right". And in Isaac, writer-director JC Chandor (Margin Call, All Is Lost) has the perfect actor to play him.
We see far too many cookie cutter characters in cinema these days, but Chandor's writing and Isaac's performance have given us one of the more fascinating men with feet of clay of recent times. You might decide Abel is a good guy who is as flawed as the rest of us, or you might take a far dimmer view - the joy is that your opinion will swing throughout. Isaac's work here should have received far more awards recognition.
As much as this is the story of one man, it's also a fascinating study of a marriage under strain, and Chastain is equally superb as Isaac's onscreen wife. The two friends were classmates together at Juilliard, and there's an intensity and real-life energy to their scenes that comes from people having known each other for so long. Worries mount, power shifts and secrets are revealed - Abel and Anna are both on the same side, but will they lose sight of that amidst all the upheaval?
Go and find out.