Oscar Isaac continues to show his range with “Ex Machina”

AFI FEST 2014 Presented By Audi Opening Night Gala Premiere Of "A Most Violent Year" - Arrivals
In a relatively brief period of time, Oscar Isaac has more or less shot to the top of the film industry. He’s a borderline A-list actor, someone about to take part in two huge franchise sequels, yet someone super comfortable in independent fare and always knocking on the door of the Oscar race, no pun intended. Isaac seems to always be in the conversation for awards, and even when he’s not, you still see him in interesting genre fare that shows off his impressive range. He’s quickly becoming a one of a kind actor and a huge star in the making, which he continues to hone this week with the science fiction film Ex Machina.

Ex Machina, in case you haven’t heard of it, is a sci-fi flick from Alex Garland that casts Isaac as an intense genius and owner of a powerful internet search engine. His character has created some advanced Artificial Intelligence and he recruits an employee to test it out, giving it a Turing Test of sorts. Suffice to say, things do not go as planned. Isaac is dangerous, funny, and just weird here, doing something that we’ve never seen him do before. It’s a smaller genre offering, but it does feature a unique performance from the actor, which we should take as standard operating procedure going forward.

Last year, he was in the running for an Academy Award nomination with A Most Violent Year. In fact, he received the Best Actor prize from the National Board of Review for his work in J.C. Chandor’s crime drama. There he played an immigrant businessman determined to climb the ladder of success and live the American Dream. He has a strict code and is relentless in his need to stick to that code, even while those around him stray from the path. It’s an often quiet performance from Isaac, but it’s an incredible one, nonetheless. It was perhaps a bit too subtle for the Academy, but that was a shame.

Two years ago, of course, he was robbed of a Best Actor nomination for Inside Llewyn Davis, his best performance to date in my eyes. Playing a folk artist in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1961 for the Coen Brothers, he blew me away with his talent. Singing a number of heartbreaking songs in addition to essaying a complicated character who’s on screen for basically every frame of the film, it was a crime that Oscar wasn’t Oscar nominated, as it were. He gave the best performance of 2013 on the whole, if you ask me. No one even came close. If nothing else, this is the purest example of the range that Isaac has. It should show that he can do anything.

Later this year, he’ll be seen as one of the main new cast members in the Star Wars franchise, Episode VII, to be precise. Isaac appears to be a pilot of some sort in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, giving him a shot at helping to anchor a blockbuster. He’ll be under the direction of J.J. Abrams here, with a large ensemble cast of veterans and newcomers to keep the focus from solely being on him. Still, it’ll be something new from him and his presence is a definite factor in my excitement for the sequel. Star Wars clearly doesn’t need Isaac and his help, but as a film franchise, it’ll no doubt be better off for having him involved, that much is a given.

As you can see, Isaac can do pretty much anything (a prior work of his worth seeking out is his scene stealing performance in 10 Years), and this doesn’t even take into account his upcoming turn as the villain Apocalypse in the next X-Men film. He’ll be working with Bryan Singer in X-Men: Apocalypse, which should give him a juicy, perhaps scenery chewing role to have some fun with. It won’t nab him an Academy Award, but he’s closing in on that first nomination, I just know it. It’s just a matter of time for him in terms of statues and awards, mark my words…

Be sure to check Isaac out in Ex Machina this weekend and later on this year in Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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