Oscar Isaac’s Hollywood career may have started out slow, but the Guatemalan-born actor has made a name for himself over the last decade. He is recognized as one of the best actors of the 21st century, appearing in independent films and blockbuster titles that span genres. In this article, we’ll be looking at an introduction to Oscar Isaac’s best performances on the silver screen.
3. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Inside Llewyn Davis, a comedy drama by the Coen Brothers, tells the story of a struggling folk singer in the 1960s. Isaac plays the titular character in what many consider as his breakout role, which earned him a nomination for Best Actor at the Golden Globes.
The movie, partly inspired by folk singer Dave Van Ronk, is considered one of the best movies of its decade by Roger Ebert. Alongside the tragicomic tale and catchy tunes, Oscar Isaac gives a tender performance as Llewyn Davis. Although a talented musician, he is aimless in his career and doesn’t have the edge that the genre was missing. The times are a-changin’ and Isaac’s Davis trails behind Bob Dylan (who has a cameo at the end), just as he is about to change the face of folk music. In the movie, Isaac makes viewers feel sorry for him as he struggles as a musician, but also feel frustrated over his lack of direction.
2. The Card Counter (2021)
Among the movies that premiered at the 78th Venice International Film Festival is Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter. Isaac plays the mysterious William “Tell” Tillich, a self-taught card counter. Tell’s character is revealed in this slow burn drama as a former soldier convicted for his role in torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib. Now reformed, Tell joins low-stakes poker games to build up to the World Series of Poker — an annual poker tournament entered by amateurs and elites for a chance to win the biggest pot on the circuit. However, Tell’s strategy is to maintain a low profile in lower stakes games.
The movie is less about poker and more about revenge, however. Tell takes Cirk Baufort, the son of a soldier who also served in Abu Ghraib, under his wing in an attempt to lead him away from a life of violence. At times unsettling, Isaac’s performance as Tell reels you into his dark deep-set eyes — and forces readers to reconcile with traumas of his past.
1. Ex Machina (2014)
Oscar Isaac has played many roles — heroic rebel fighter pilot, struggling artist, and mysterious gambler, among others. His most memorable one, however, is in a much smaller science fiction movie, Ex Machina.
In the 2014 psychological thriller, Isaac plays Nathan, a brilliant tech CEO who has successfully built a human-like robot out of artificial intelligence. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that as intelligent as he is, Nathan is narcissistic and manipulative. This might seem difficult to pull off given Isaac’s on-screen likability. But he does the mad scientist role so well that Business Insider considers this a clear miss from the Oscar nominations — and we agree.
That said, Oscar Isaac’s growing filmography has proven that he is a chameleon on the screen and one of the best actors in recent film history. It’s only a matter of time until he lands and delivers an Oscar-winning role. For our opinion on his latest film Dune, do check out our review.