The Telegraph – And not just a most violent year, either: the most violent year. The third film by J. C. Chandor, who wrote and directed Margin Call and All Is Lost, is a neck-prickling moral thriller set in New York City, 1981: statistically speaking, the deadliest 12 months in the city’s history, and no time to make a respectable living. (…) You underestimate Mr. and Mrs. Morales at your peril – and, for that matter, Isaac and Chastain. As a couple they’re a dramatic dream team, giving Abel and Anna a gorgeous, acidic chemistry that comes from mixing too much business with not enough pleasure. Isaac, with grey streaks through his hair and a slate-coloured double-breasted suit, once again skulking round chilly New York streets after Inside Llewyn Davis, looks like a permanently suspicious crow, while Chastain, all blood-red lips and fine silk blouses, has the poise of a steel sculpture.
HitFix – J. C. Chandor’s “A Most Violent Year” is a powerfully told story, a thrilling surprise, and both Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain do remarkable work as a couple trying to close a deal that will turn their heating oil company into a much larger overall business, the deal they’ve been working their whole lives to prepare.
THR – Cast against type as a thickly accented Brooklyn gal unburdened by her husband’s principles, Chastain sharply conveys Anna’s matter-of-fact savvy as well as her love for her man and daughters.
Variety – “A Most Violent Year” may not ultimately tell us anything new about big-city corruption, thwarted idealism and the steep price of admission to the American dream. But it says those things with a kind of conviction that reminds you why ambitious hustlers like Abel Morales keep striving for their imagined piece of the pie against very inhospitable odds. (…) In most of her roles to date, Chastain has been the ballsy, forward-pushing dynamo, and “A Most Violent Year” is no real exception. Though she’s not quite as well served as Isaac by the script, her Anna is around long enough for us to see that she’s every inch her father’s daughter, and far less religious than Abel when it comes to playing by the rules.
Indiewire – Writer-director J.C. Chandor has only made three features, but there’s no mistaking his vision. This trio of confident dramas explore the plights of men pitted against invisible foes: In the recession-era “Margin Call,” the threat was the economy; in the wordless survival-at-sea opus “All is Lost,” Robert Redford faced off with nature; now, with his assured study of crime and business ethics “A Most Violent Year,” Oscar Isaac plays a conflicted antihero at odds with his own moral code. While it lacks the same ambition of his other movies, its elegant setting and thematic consistency confirm Chandor’s place as one of the most promising American directors to emerge this decade.
The Wrap – One good movie can be a fluke, and two can represent the fulfillment of early promise. Three thoughtful, provocative films in a row, however, demand that attention be paid. And “A Most Violent Year” heralds J.C. Chandor as one of the most fascinating filmmakers working today, particularly because his three films couldn’t be more different. (…) Don’t let Anna’s placid demeanor fool you, however — as portrayed by Chastain, she’s ferocious and driven, ready to stand up to anyone or anything who threatens her family or the company’s well-being. We’ve seen this kind of mobster Lady Macbeth before, but Chastain never overdoes it with the snarling or the scenery-chewing. She’s tough and she’s smart and she brooks no outside interference, but she’s also a loving, pragmatic wife, never a mere gorgon.
A Most Violent Year is released in the US on December 31 and in the UK on January 23