The Best Of Jessica Chastain

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Jessica Chastain began her career in several guest-roles on TV before making her feature debut in the critically acclaimed Jolene. After her incredible performance, she soon broke through to the mainstream with major roles in The Help and Zero Dark Thirty. She’s since become the go-to actress for brilliant, understated and unexpected performances, and her fantastic range has seen her become a regular on the awards circuit. To celebrate the release of her latest, crime drama A Most Violent Year, available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms from May 18, 2015 courtesy of Icon Film Distribution, we take a look at some of her greatest roles to date…

A Most Violent Year (2014)

Chastain gives an electrifying performance in this crime drama, alongside Oscar Isaac. At a time when New York City is experiencing a spike in criminal activity, small businessman Abel Morales (Isaac) fights to make himself a living, support his wife Anna (Chastain) and protect his interests. Always looking for a way to expand his business, Abel nevertheless strives to keep things honest and to do things by the book. However, when he becomes the target of opportunistic thieves, he takes matters into his own hands to track down those responsible. But, in doing so, he also attracts the attention of the Assistant District Attorney (David Oyelowo) who takes an unwelcome interest in Abel’s business practices…

Interstellar (2014)

Christopher Nolan’s epic sci-fi stars Chastain alongside Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine, and charts a future in which Earth has been devastated by drought and famine, causing a scarcity in food and extreme climate change. Humans are facing extinction, when a mysterious rip in the space-time continuum is discovered, potentially giving mankind a chance at survival. Explorers including Cooper (McConaughey) and Brand (Hathaway) undertake a mission beyond the solar system in a last ditch attempt to find a planet that can sustain life. Chastain plays Cooper’s daughter Murph, who remains on earth and works with Professor Brand (Caine) to try and discover an equation which could help save humanity.

Miss Julie (2014)

Liv Ullman’s adaptation of August Strindberg’s play stars Chastain alongside Colin Farrell and acts as the perfect vehicle for her to demonstrate her incredible range, as she takes on the role of the conflicted, strong willed Miss Julie, who over the course of one evening battles with her feelings for valet Jean (Farrell), as they engage in a psychological game of cat and mouse in the oppressive, claustrophobic environment of the family manor’s kitchen.

Mama (2013)

Andrés Muschietti’s horror won multiple awards on release, and tells the haunting tale of two little girls who are abandoned in the woods after their mother’s murder. After their father’s breakdown and attempt to murder them too, they are saved by a ghostly image. Some years later they are rescued and taken in by their uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Chastain). However, it seems that whatever being has been guarding the girls so far has followed them too- and now their lives are in grave danger…

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-winning chronicle of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and his subsequent death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L.s Team 6 in 2011 stars Chastain as CIA operative Maya, whose dogged pursuit of Bin Laden continues for several years, until finally in 2011, it appears her work may finally pay off. A U.S. Navy SEAL team is dispatched to kill or capture Bin Laden- but Maya’s confidence in the location of their target is challenged by her colleagues, and no one but she believes with absolute certainty that Bin Laden is where she thinks he is.

Lawless (2012)

Nick Cave penned this Depression-era crime drama, which recounts the lives of the three Bondurant brothers- Forrest (Tom Hardy), Jack (Shia LeBeouf) and Howard (Jason Clarke), who are forced to contend with the corrupt District Attorney Mason Wardell (Tim Tolin) and Special Deputy Charles Rakes (Guy Pearce), after refusing to pay the bribes required to maintain their bootlegging and distillery business. Chastain turns in a wonderful supporting performance as Maggie, a dancer from Chicago with a hidden past, who Forrest hires as a waitress for the distillery, and who he eventually falls in love with.

Tree of Life (2011)

Terence Malick’s impressionistic tale of a Midwestern family in the 1950’s stars Chastain alongside Brad Pitt as a married couple bringing up a family including their eldest son Jack (Hunter McCracken). The film follows Jack, through the innocence of his childhood up to his disillusioned adult years as he desperately tries to reconcile his complex relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). In adulthood, Jack (now played by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the meaning of life while questioning the true nature of faith. The stunning performances from the central cast are supported beautifully by Malick‘s signature striking imagery.

The Help (2011) 

Based on Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel set in pre- Civil Rights Mississippi, The Help recounts the trials and tribulations of the African American maids in a tight-knit community, including Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer). Initially reluctant, they eventually agree to recount their experiences to aspiring writer Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) for her book on the lives of maids. Meanwhile, Minny is forced to take a job with a newly settled married couple- one half of which is the kind-hearted but calamitous Celia Foote, played by an utterly charming and scene-stealing Chastain.

The Debt (2010)

John Madden directed this espionage thriller, which begins in 1997, when retired Mossad agents Rachel (Helen Mirren) and Stefan (Tom Wilkinson) receive shocking news about their former colleague David (Ciaran Hinds). Celebrated for decades due to a hazardous mission they undertook in 1965 to track down Nazi war criminal Vogel (Jesper Christensen), they are now faced with a moral dilemma of unimaginable proportions. Told in flashbacks to 1965, where the trio are portrayed by Chastain as Rachel, Marton Csokas as Stefan and Sam Worthington as David, the film jumps between two time periods, and the tension builds to an astonishing climax, in which the true extent of the secrets kept are finally revealed.

Jolene (2008)

Chastain delivers an astonishing performance in this adaptation of EL Doctorow’s acclaimed short story- a coming-of-age drama about Jolene (Chastain), a teenage orphan who spends a decade travelling cross-country on an adventure which finds her crossing paths with everyone from the manipulative ‘Uncle’ Phil (Dermot Mulroney), who seduces her and destroys her marriage, to wealthy fundamentalist (Michael Vartan), to an ex-mobster (Chazz Palminteri) desperately attempting to win big in Las Vegas. Ably by supported by a strong ensemble cast, the film offers an early glimpse of just how incredibly talented and versatile an actress she is.

A Most Violent Year is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms from May 18, 2015 courtesy of Icon Film Distribution.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.


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