While he’s only come to prominence in the last few years, Oscar Isaac has been acting for quite a while – in smaller roles, primarily, but in typically interesting projects. And while he can now get roles in X-Men and Star Wars, some of those earlier movies are worth taking a look back at.
Here are the top 10 movies from the career of Oscar Isaac.
Balibo follows a group of five journalists who were captured and eventually killed during the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975. Isaac plays José Ramos-Horta, when he was younger. He’d go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize and become the president of East Timor years after the events in this film. It’s got a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes … and was banned in Indonesia for not portraying the “official” version of the events. “Official,” because, well, the government allegedly made up a different story from what actually happened, which is what the movie documents.
Che: Part One
Interestingly, another war-type movie. This one focuses on the revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Steven Soderbergh directed both parts to Che, although the first part is slightly more interesting and Isaac is only in that one, hence its inclusion on the list. He plays a U.N interpreter. He’s not in it a ton, but the movie is well worth watching anyway. And since Isaac hasn’t been a leading man for a large portion of his career, more than a couple of movies on this list are going to have him in supporting roles.
Drive is an artsy action movie. It’s about a man who works as a stunt driver and a mechanic in Hollywood during the day, and then takes his driving talents onto the street at night, when he offers his services to criminals as a getaway driver. He also has a budding romance with his neighbor. It’s gorgeous, it’s got great acting, its action is intense, and it’s very thrilling. It’s the good version of the Transporter movies.
Alex Garland wrote the screenplays to movies like Sunshine, 28 Days Later, and Dredd, and in 2015 made his directorial debut with Ex Machina. It’s a little early to call it a masterpiece, but I absolutely love it. It follows a young programmer who gets invited to his reclusive boss’s mansion to test out an experiment … and then it just builds and builds the suspense and intrigue for the rest of its running time before finally allowing it to all pay off. It’s fantastic.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the few great leading roles that Oscar Isaac has had. It still disappoints me that he didn’t receive more awards love for the performance. It follows a week in the life of its protagonist, an aspiring folk singer back in the early 60s, before Bob Dylan burst onto the scene and effectively allowed the genre to be popular. The songs are great, Isaac is fantastic, and there’s a very cute cat that plays a prominent role. And cats are awesome.
The Life Before Her Eyes
Before starting this list, I’d actually forgotten that Oscar Isaac is in The Life Before Her Eyes. The film is both about a school shooting, and about how one of its survivors is dealing with the trauma 15 years afterward. It’s a heartbreaking movie with a clever premise and twisting narrative. It’s heavily symbolic and features a lot of gorgeous imagery. Its characters aren’t the most interesting, but the movie is still a good one.
A Most Violent Year
A Most Violent Year gives Isaac another meaty role. He’s an immigrant who has managed to run a successful oil company for several years. He got this way honestly and fairly, not to mention legally. But certain circumstances over the course of the film make him question whether or not he can continue to do things the morally correct way. That allows it to engage us intellectually and emotionally. Not to mention, there are many potential instances of violence. 1981 was one of the most violent years in the history of New York City, it claims. It’s an effective drama and thriller.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
After a few not-so-good films in the franchise, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens came onto the scene to win back the hearts of its audience members – with nostalgia, mostly. It’s a lot like the very first Star Wars, but it mostly works and is a lot of fun. It’s even more emotionally compelling than one might expect. The action is solid, the effects are great, and it made Star Wars viable again. Isaac is one of its three leads, and seems to remain so for its entire trilogy.
Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
After The Force Awakens brought the franchise back from the dead, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi decided to take things in a different direction. Some fans were not terribly happy with that. I guess when a movie actively decides to cut its nostalgic ties, that’s going to anger people who are here primarily for them. In addition, it didn’t play into fan theories. And then the fans were wrong. And they didn’t like that. Sad.
I’m mostly kidding and poking fun. It took the franchise in a new, largely unexpected direction. And I appreciate it for that. It has some hokey moments and its main plot isn’t the best, but its character interactions are great, the action is strong, and freshness is a good thing.
Sucker Punch might be Zack Snyder’s most visually dynamic film. It’s stunning, at times. It follows a young girl who gets sent to a mental institution, which she imagines is a brothel – and then imagines the brothel as a bunch of action scenes, whenever she’s forced to dance for paying customers. And it’s about female empowerment. And has great action. And a mind-bending plot. And, as mentioned, it’s stunning. Why don’t people like this?