Not everyone will know who Oscar Isaac is, but soon they will. After being cast in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and X-Men: Apocalypse in central roles, Oscar Isaac is hot property. However, these won’t be his first films. Oscar Isaac may not have been acting on the big screen for too many years but his CV is still awfully impressive. If roles in the excellent Drive, Robin Hood and Body of Lies can’t crack the top 5, you know you’ve been in some decent films.
So, to begin with number 5,
5. Two Faces of January (2014)
Viggo and Kirsten may take the early lead in this crime thriller, but it is Isaac’s shining performance that quickly takes centre stage. Isaac’s character is a man with obvious manipulative capabilities, but one also harbouring a strong moral drive. Isaac’s performance is assured and a most impressive notch in this decent picture. He is confident enough to convincingly butt heads with a sour Mortensen, and youthful enough to credibly entice Dunst. Two Faces of January represents a good showing on the part of Isaac, if not a career highlight.
Film – ★★★ Performance – ★★★
4. Balibo (2009)
Balibo tells the tale of the Balibo Five murders in East Timor and the journalists who attempted to shed light on the situation. Isaac plays Jose Ramos-Horta, another complex figure, whose motives are never quite clear. At once you expect him of holding ulterior motives, and at another, as his natural charisma takes precedent, this worry has evaporated. Isaac is a necessary unknown in poignant picture and shows his early leading man aptitude. Isaac’s role isn’t as the central figure, but Balibo is certainly a key point in his cinematic development.
Film – ★★★ 1/2 Performance – ★★★
3. Ex Machina (2015)
It seems that characters with complex motives have become something of a specialty for our Oscar. Similarly to his showings in TFoJ and Balibo, Isaac can simultaneously be seen as a hero and a villain as Nathan, the isolated potential creator of the first Artificial Intelligence. His shaved head, bushy beard and dark glasses are the physical representation of Nathan’s mental disarray and irregularity. Isaac is simply brilliant, and Ex Machina would have been a much weaker picture without his eerie presence. His relationship with Gleeson’s idealistic coder is overarching and dominating, whilst his detachment from his very-human creation creates a distinctly tense and disturbing atmosphere throughout. The trio of performances are all equally impressive in a film that is possibly the most impressive sci-fi of the decade.
Film – ★★★★ 1/2 Performance – ★★★★
2. A Most Violent Year (2015)
Isaac is almost unrecognisable between his characters in TFoJ, Ex Machina and A Most Violent Year. TFoJ has a trademark Isaac featuring his distinct curls, whilst Isaac’s curls are nowhere to be found in Ex Machina. His shaven head, larger physique and lumberjack beard give him a wholly different appearance in the sci-fi thriller. His appearance is so changed in A Most Violent Year that he looks less like the Isaac of either TFoJ or Ex Machina, and more like a young Pacino.
A Most Violent Year is the first film in this list in which Isaac is undeniably the leading protagonist. His long-held personal friendship with Jessica Chastain is strikingly apparent as the pair play a couple united, but separated by their opposing moral ideals. Chastain’s Lady Macbeth figure tries to change Isaac’s ethical Abel Morales, who strains between successes, the vultures circling his business and his innate morality. His performance is entirely impressive and has surely aided his acquisition of future starring roles.
Film – ★★★★ Performance – ★★★★ 1/2
1. Inside Llewyn Davis (2014)
Isaac’s best performance is fittingly also a Golden Globe nominated performance. As the titular Llewyn Davis, Isaac plays a struggling folk singer, resigned to couch-hopping as successions of poor decisions haunt his life. Isaac is the perfect casting as Davis, portraying his vulnerability and obvious talent alongside his personally destructive side perfectly.
Not only is his acting performance exemplary, but Inside Llewyn Davis also gives Isaac the opportunity to display his musical ability. His voice is soft and soothing and is just as proficient as the talented professional musicians he sings alongside. When Isaac acts as a backing vocalist to Justin Timberlake, there is little discrepancy between the pair, and the addition of Adam Driver’s offbeat vocals creates a wonderful musical moment; one which I had on repeat for weeks to come. Isaac’s performance in Inside Llewyn Davis is a top-class performance, showing expect prowess in many areas, in the Coen’s most well-rounded recent picture.
Film – ★★★★ 1/2 Performance – ★★★★★
I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick run down of some of Oscar Isaac’s majesty, and I hope that some of you will go and check out a film you haven’t before!
Images courtesy of hdwallpapersimages, balibo.com, Ex Machina, blakfilm and soundandpicture respectively.