The Films of J.C. Chandor
All is Lost (October 25/13)
An impressively audacious effort, All is Lost follows a nameless individual (Robert Redford, billed as "Our Man" in the credits) as he's forced to fight for his life after his 39-foot yacht collides with a shipping container. It's a remarkable spare premise that's employed to watchable, sporadically engrossing effect by filmmaker J.C. Chandor, as the writer/director does a superb job of initially establishing and developing the central character and his increasingly perilous predicament - with the movie's entertaining atmosphere heightened considerably by Redford's striking, consistently mesmerizing performance. The actor, saddled with a bare minimum of dialogue, generally does an effective job of transforming his blank-slate protagonist into a sympathetic figure, although, by that same token, it's clear that the movie's midsection isn't quite as compelling or engrossing as one might've anticipated (ie Chandor is, for the most part, concerned with the gritty nuts-and-bolts of the main character's seafaring exploits). The movie ultimately does progress from passable to enthralling, however, with the growing emphasis on Our Man's battle with the elements and efforts at staying alive lending the proceedings an unexpectedly gripping feel. By the time the absolutely captivating final stretch rolls around, All is Lost has certainly established itself as an intriguing cinematic experiment that hits more often than it misses - with Redford's dynamic turn as the mysterious protagonist playing an integral role in the movie's success.
A Most Violent Year (February 27/15)
J.C. Chandor's disappointing followup to All is Lost, A Most Violent Year, set in 1981, follows Oscar Isaac's Abel Morales as he attempts to protect his business and his family from a myriad of menacing outside forces. It's clear right from the outset that A Most Violent Year's greatest asset is its tremendously appealing sense of style, as writer/director Chandor's atmospheric modus operandi initially compensates for the extreme deliberateness with which the story unfolds. There's little doubt, also, that the movie benefits substantially from its uniformly superb assortment of performances, with Isaac's note-perfect turn as the beleaguered central character mirrored by a strong supporting cast that includes Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, and Albert Brooks. And although Chandor effectively peppers the proceedings with a handful of electrifying moments, including a seriously riveting chase sequence, A Most Violent Year grows more and more uninvolving as Chandor delves deeper and deeper into the minutia of Abel's various problems. It's not surprising to note, ultimately, that the viewer has absolutely nothing invested in the protagonist's ongoing struggle, and it's obvious that the film's lack of escalation ensures that one has checked out long before the underwhelming conclusion rolls around. (The 125 minute running time, of course, feels much, much longer, too.)