7 Other Films To See Starring ‘The Force Awakens’ Cast
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This is the long-awaited week that audiences return to one of the most beloved fictional universes of all time. We welcome not only a new Star Wars film to the existing six, but a new stable of actors destined to see their mugs on action figures and trading cards for the rest of their lives. At this historic moment, our bloggers answer the question, “What is your favorite film from a Force Awakens actor?” People reprising their roles from the original trilogy are off-limits.
I didn’t have to look at my Flickchart long to find a film starring a new cast member. The actor I chose was none other than the brilliant Max von Sydow. He’s been around longer than any of the original Star Wars cast, making the pick somewhat ironic. He plays a medical doctor in the brilliant Shutter Island. Though his part is somewhat minor, he does an effective job nonetheless. Shutter Island is considered one of Martin Scorsese‘s lesser works by most, but I think it is wonderful. DiCaprio is fantastic as the main protagonist, a US Marshall coming to investigate a recent breakout on the island’s mental health facility. The film’s examination of morality and psyche is complex, slowly revealing its game throughout the layers of the film being unfolded. A moody score complements a grim period set design that pulls the viewer into the dirt and lets you roll in it. Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley are both wonderful in their supporting roles and prove suitable complements to DiCaprio. Shutter Island is firmly in the higher rankings of Scorcese and DiCaprio’s collaborations and Sydow is a more than welcome member of the cast. — Connor Ryan Adamson
The central conceit of About Time is heady sci-fi: if you could travel back and forth to any point within your lifetime, where would you go, and what would you do? How would you alter your own existence, the choices you’ve made? Yet these questions are treated incidentally by writer/director Richard Curtis in favor of the human drama at the film’s core. Curtis, of course, is perfect for handling this material, having previously mastered romantic comedy/drama with Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral. This one he rests on the shoulders of young Domhnall Gleeson, who is a revelation. When your dad is the great Brendan Gleeson, it must be intimidating to head into the same line of work, but Domhnall’s performance in About Time seems almost effortless. He’s ably supported by Rachel McAdams as the love of his life and Bill Nighy as the quirky dad who informs him of his innate ability to time travel (not to mention the other, colorful members of his family). Yet the movie lives or dies by his performance, and Gleeson succeeds. Right alongside him, we learn that the journey is just as important as the destination, that our pain shapes us just as much as our pleasure, and that who we are is just as much about the choices we did make as it is about the roads ultimately not traveled. Between this and his equally impressive turn in this year’s Ex Machina, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Gleeson does with his Force Awakens character, General Hux, and am excited for his future career. — Nigel Druitt
Inside Llewyn Davis
Of all the new cast members set to appear in this week’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the one I am most excited to see in action is Oscar Isaac. This is (mostly) because of his performance in the Coen Brothers’ masterful film Inside Llewyn Davis. Isaac plays the film’s title character, a struggling folk musician in 1960s New York City who can’t seem to catch a break. He is a beaten down, cynical human being who is constantly frustrated and undermined by his circumstances, choices, and his inability to “make it” as a folk singer. No matter what he does, things don’t really seem to work out for him, so much so that we wonder if his bitterness is what sabotages him and keeps him from success, or if he is truly bitter because life refuses to let him succeed. In spite of this, Llewyn Davis never becomes unsympathetic or unlikable, and the credit for that goes, mostly, to Isaac; he portrays a multifaceted, human character in an admirably subtle and nuanced way that only a great actor can. Even if a viewer might not agree with Llewyn’s choices or reactions to events, we understand him, because Isaac makes us understand him. Of course, much of the credit for this must also go to the Coens’ typically sharp writing and direction. The film is full of their signature humor and dialogue; and, more importantly, their uncanny ability to subvert expectations and progress the story in a way that no one else would, unless it were real life. The film also boasts superb supporting performances from Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Carey Mulligan, and (appropriately) Adam Driver, who will be playing opposite Isaac once again as the villainous Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens.
Finally, it would be a crime to discuss this film without mentioning the soundtrack. It is filled with wonderful folk tunes, almost all of which were sung by the cast, on the set (not pre-recorded). This is another way that Isaac shines in this film: he can sing. I mean, really sing. It’s not just that he has a pleasant voice (although he certainly does). Folk music doesn’t require a particularly beautiful sounding voice; it is how Isaac expresses his emotion through his singing that is especially impressive. So much of his performance as this character comes through in his songs, and that is a talent – to make us understand a character because he gives so much of himself to his music. It’s a great performance in a fantastic film. I can’t wait to see Isaac lock S-foils in attack position as ace pilot Poe Dameron this week in The Force Awakens, and however many more Star Wars films he stars in after that. — Matt Ray
It may be cheating to pick a movie that nobody has seen outside of a festival, but I’ll give in to the quicker, easier, more seductive path and choose Mojave (it’s not eligible for the Flickchart database yet, but you can check out my review here.) Oscar Isaac plays a character not unlike a modern Charles Manson — he thinks he’s a singer, an artist, a quirky rebel genius, but in fact, he’s just a washout SoCal serial killer. Mojave is self-consciously a good versus evil tale, not unlike Star Wars, and Isaac does a pretty darn convincing evil. It’s a lot bleaker than Star Wars, though, both stylistically and narratively, so it stands in contrast to the bright blockbuster Abrams has doubtless crafted. Isaac’s career knows no genre limitations. — David Conrad
A Most Violent Year
A24 Films remains the coolest company in film distribution. They’re the heroes who brought us Spring Breakers, Under the Skin, Enemy, and Locke. This year’s Ex Machina was marketed partially with the knowledge that two of its three stars, Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson, would appear in The Force Awakens. But A24 also distributed last year’s A Most Violent Year, which stars Oscar Isaac as the owner of a small, but competitive, heating company in New York City. The violence arrives both in the year itself and the competition; the film is set in 1981 (and isn’t full of pop hits to display such,) a year which marked an exceptional crime wave in New York City. As for the competition, lying on the books, strong-arming customers, and equipping oil truck drivers with handguns are the least of the oil company’s worries.
Isaac plays Abel Morales with an intense ethnicity; he expresses a real frustration with the condescending Americans he’s hired, who seem to act as though they didn’t expect their immigrant boss to have such nice English, let alone be clever enough to own a business. There’s an intense suspicion of those who seem to be trying to get in his way, including his wife (played by the always great Jessica Chastain) and the D.A.’s office (represented by Selma’s David Oyelowo.)
Directed by J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, All Is Lost) the film has a sickly coloration and dark shadows, the sort we’re used to seeing when we expect regular gang action. However, Chandor’s script inverts this expectation; by halfway through the film, we’re praying not that our favorite characters won’t get shot, but that no one, anywhere, would be stupid enough to fire a gun in the first place. The film is a perfect match for those who love thrillers where the concern is not the body count, but the implications any combat might have for every character. — Alex Christian Lovendahl
The Virgin Spring
The original Star Wars trilogy had Alec Guinness to lend some credibility to the otherwise pretty unknown (at the time) cast. While the newest series has plenty of known quantities, it too has an elder statesman in Max von Sydow, an actor who has lent his gravitas to many films going all the way back to a series of Ingmar Bergman classics. In 1960’s The Virgin Spring, he plays the straight-laced and very religious lord of a medieval Swedish estate. The first half of the movie belongs to his virginal daughter, but when she is raped and killed by some wandering men, von Sydow takes over the second half as he exacts revenge — but what is the cost of revenge to one’s soul? Like many of Bergman’s films, The Virgin Spring is concerned with the disjunct between religious observance and spiritual truth, but it, at least, offers hope of forgiveness rather than the silence of God, as several of his other films do. The driving force of the film, though, is von Sydow, whose very presence in the frame is monumental — a seeming relic of medieval art. His face seems chiseled from stone, and Bergman’s willingness to let him simply be on the screen foregrounds the film’s exploration of immovability met with existential anxiety. — Jandy Hardesty
The Raid: Redemption
I’ll be honest. I haven’t seen any of the movies starring Oscar Isaac or Daisy Ridley or John Boyega. From what I’ve seen of Isaac on clips from his movies played on talk shows, I think I’d enjoy his performances. Even the fact that after this, he’ll be starring as the titular baddie in X-Men: Apocalypse, shows his range. I actually had to scroll down on the cast list to see an actor whose work I’ve seen. That’s when I stumbled across Iko Uwais, star of The Raid: Redemption. I’m not a moviegoer that goes after art-house dramas or others of that ilk, but a martial arts action movie about a team of cops that have to ascend an apartment fighting gangsters Game of Death-style to get to this big boss? Gimme gimme gimme. The Raid: Redemption is such a fun, raw, visceral ride of a movie, it’s up there with John Wick for me. And anyone that knows me will attest to how high that praise really is. The action is very gripping and martial arts are authentic – no wires playing with physics here. The plot is just enough to keep you interested, but has the good sense to know its place in the grand scheme of things. Uwais himself carries the movie as its protagonist, giving enough character development to show the effects the film’s proceedings have on him. I have no idea what part Uwais plays in TFA, but I guarantee you that I will be looking for him when I see it. — Jeff Lombardi