Anyone who reads AwardsCircuit.com knows that last year I did everything but bribe the Academy to cite and remember the towering performance of Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen. The 35-year-old actor charmed the pants off many critics and earned himself a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical. The mention turned out to be a minor consolation prize for a turn that should have had him win the Academy Award for Best Actor. But I digress.
This year, Isaac has a full spread laid out for himself. He’s already had a role in Charlie Stratton’s In Secret opposite Elizabeth Olsen and Jessica Lange, in which played “Laurent LeClaire” who seduces Olsen’s character. Opening in February in limited theaters, the film is already available on Blu-Ray and DVD. The bigger projects have yet to come. Based on his upcoming filmography, he may feel reminiscent of other actors who have cracked the Academy’s shortlist with multiple roles in one year. This type of work ethic helped Jessica Chastain garner her first Oscar nomination for The Help when she had so many to choose from including The Tree of Life, Take Shelter, The Debt, Texas Killing Fields, and Coriolanus. Other actors who have found their breakouts in this method include Edward Norton, who in 1996 received his nomination for Primal Fear after delivering in The People vs. Larry Flynt and Everyone Says I Love You as well. Two-time Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey won his first Academy Award for The Usual Suspects with help from Outbreak, Se7en, and Swimming with Sharks. Isaac could find himself joining this company.
First on the agenda is a role in The Two Faces of January directed by the writer of his breakout role in Drive, Hossein Amini. Co-starring with Academy Award nominee Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst, Isaac is getting good ink from critics.
Louise Keller of Urban Cinefile says this:
Mortensen is always charismatic onscreen and an interesting actor. We always get the feeling there is more to him than meets the eye and the same applies to Chester. Isaac (memorable in Inside Llewyn Davis) is perfectly cast here, his dark features allowing his Greek heritage to be credible and reminiscent at times of a young Al Pacino. It is their relationship and polarising morals that delivers the grit to crystalise the complex pieces of the jigsaw. The scene on the ocean liner in which Mortensen and Isaac sit face to face but not a word of dialogue is spoken is one of the film’s most powerful.
Andrew L. Urban of the same site praises Isaac as well:
Viggo Mortensen as Chester delivers a complex, gritty version of the smooth con man, not so simplistic as to lose all our sympathy, while Oscar Isaac is even grittier and just as textured as Rydal, the small time operator sucked in to a dangerous orbit he can’t escape – or control.
Adam Woodward of Little White Lies loves Isaac’s chemistry with Mortensen:
It’s all a little too in love with its own sun-bleached period aesthetic, but as sophisticated Mediterranean suspense thrillers go, The Two Faces of January is a gilded guilty pleasure. The film’s scintillating three-way chemistry is especially irresistible — in particular Isaac and Mortensen share an intriguing father-son dynamic that simmers away beneath a surface of chess-like foreplay.
Dave Calhoun of Time Out London gives praise to the men:
Dunst handles her sidekick role with a mature ease that’s new to her, but it’s the men you remember: Mortensen in psychological freefall and Isaac always tough to read and hiding something behind a handsome, controlled exterior. It’s a gentle and smart blast from the past.
This is not something that we expect to become his representation for the film year but it sure helps at this point when chasing movie gold. The film’s buzz is very quiet at the moment and could register too small or not accessible for voters when the year-end blockbusters start making noise.
With no set release date yet, Isaac has already filmed William Monahan’s Mojave alongside Garrett Hedlund and Mark Wahlberg. Though something that may not factor into the conversation, Monahan is said to be having trouble selling the picture. Playing the homicidal drifter Thomas, Isaac could have juicy material for himself. If anything, it offers up another side of his amazing acting abilities, good or not.
The last, and probably his most anticipated role, will be in J.C. Chandor‘s A Most Violent Year opposite Chastain, Albert Brooks, and David Oyelowo. Confirmed to be the lead role, A24 Films has slowly but surely become the go-to studio for eclectic and interesting films, no matter how they’re received. Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring, flawed and all, were some of the more ambitious efforts of last year. Chandor has proven to be an amazing talent and force as a filmmaker. Margin Call had its loves while All is Lost was one of the more underrated and forgotten films of last year. Set to play an immigrant, who tries to expand his business and capitalize on opportunities as the rampant violence, decay, and corruption close in around him and his family, this could Isaac’s most ambitious role to date. With a solid November release, he could be this year’s Demian Bichir. Isaac would be the first Guatemalan nominee in Oscar history. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear Isaac’s name during the precursor run, racking up multiple awards for multiple performances.
With his upcoming role in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars Episode VII currently filming, Isaac is sharing his time off in London with family, as you can see from an exclusive photo sent below. I’m very excited to see Isaac’s year take off and become a household name after this year. There’s too much talent to be ignored for long.
Discuss. What do you think of Isaac’s chances?