Unmissable: Is Oscar Isaac about to become the next big thing?

Oscar Isaac as Nathan in Ex Machina

Oscar Isaac as Nathan in Ex Machina - Credit: PA

As one of the heroes of the hotly-anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens film and the star of new Sky Atlantic drama, after years of stellar performances, it looks like Oscar Isaac is set to confirm his status as one of the best actors around, writes Elliot Furniss.

The Guatamalan-born American remains best known for the lead role in the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) as well as supporting turns in the likes of Drive, where he played Standard, Carey Muligan’s ex-con husband, and The Two Faces of January, where he played a conman opposite Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst.

In this year’s excellent sci-fi thriller Ex Machina he delivered a thrillingly chilling turn as psychotic tech genius Nathan Bateman opposite fellow Star Wars cast member Domhnall Gleeson and Swedish actress Alicia Vikander.

Ex Machina, the debut directorial effort from novelist and screenwriter Alex Garland, allowed him to fully showcase his acting skills in a string of intense one-on-one scenes with Gleeson.

The critically-acclaimed film more than doubled its money at the box office and received critical acclaim, but didn’t quite propel Isaac – or the equally talented Gleeson – into the big time. That will come with Star Wars, surely, where they are on the opposite sides of the Force, with Gleeson starring as bad-guy General Hux opposite Isaac’s Resistance (not Rebellion, as we have known it before) X-wing pilot Poe Damaron. That might sound gibberish to you now, but come December these characters’ monikers will be as familiar to most as Han Solo and Darth Vader.

So what is there on offer in the mean time for Isaac fans?

Show me a Hero is a gritty new American miniseries, screened on HBO in the States and Sky Atlantic over here, starting next week.

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What excites the most about this new six-part drama, which also stars Catherine Keener, Alfred Molina, Winona Ryder, LaTanya Richardson-Jackson, Bob Balaban and Jim Belushi, is that it has been created by David Simon, the mastermind behind The Wire.

Show me a Hero is based on the book of the same name by former New York Times journalist Lisa Belkin, which tells of a white middle-class neighbourhood’s resistance to a federally-mandated public housing development in late 1980s Yonkers, New York, and how these tensions affected the city as a whole.

Isaac is idealistic politician Nick Wasicsko who rises from up-and-coming city councilman to become the youngest ever mayor of Yonkers.

Can Simon, after the slightly underwhelming response (rightly or wrongly) to Wire follow-ups Treme and Generation Kill, make a genuine return to form?

It seems distinctly possible judging by the early noises coming out of the States, with the Hollywood Reporter stating that despite the subject matter being not exactly sexy and, on the surface, “not particularly timely or urgent”, it remains relevant, dramatic and entertaining all at the same time and packed with “wonderful” performances and “beautifully nuanced” scripts.

And much of the praise from all corners is heaped on Isaac, an actor who just lacks that killer role to elevate his career into the very big leagues. With an award-laden TV show and a key role in the biggest blockbuster of all time (which The Force Awakens will become, trust me) this next few months should see that happen.

Show Me a Hero is on Sky Atlantic on Monday at 9pm – don’t miss it, even if a drama about aggressive efforts to oppose housing desegregation in 1980s New York doesn’t exactly sound like your thing.

The Wire is available through Sky Go – if you haven’t watched it yet, then you better have a good excuse.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out in cinemas on December 16. Enjoy.

What do you think? Email me at elliot.furniss@archant.co.uk or follow me on Twitter @Elliot_FurnissSee more from Unmissable here

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