Following military interrogator turned gambler William Tell (Oscar Isaac), The Card Counter follows his day-to-day life as it begins to spiral when naive teen Cirk (Tye Sheridan) draws him into a plot of revenge. Fully embracing America’s gambling culture and darker military side, the film is able to tilt from game to horror show at a moment's notice - much like its protagonist.
Leading on from his parental role in Denis Villeneuve's Dune (2021), Oscar Isaac takes on an altogether different parental figure as Tell. Now beardless, Isaac portrays the lead perfectly with a calm and powerful persona brimming with something much darker underneath, keeping all his cards very close to his chest. Supporting actors like Sheridan and Tiffany Haddish’s La Linda do a fantastic job of complementing and bouncing off of Isaacs's more closed nature.
One character I wish we got to see more of was Willem Dafoe's Gordo. With very limited screen time, we get very little in which to gauge the kind of person he is outside of a brief monologue about his role in the film. Gordo certainly is an ever-present force in the film and the subject of many conversations, but he never really becomes more than that; it would have given the climax of the film more weight if we had been given the chance to see Dafoe really embody this character.
While I desperately wanted more of DeFoe, what we got was excellent and that was in part due to the interesting camera work used. Some of the more disturbing parts of the film are shown through a curved fisheye lens that really highlighted the depravity of the scene. That and the consistent close-ups of Willem DeFoe’s face put the fear of God into me. But while the camera work and cinematography helped highlight the darkest aspects of the film, it also highlighted some of the most beautiful parts, and I’m not just talking about Oscar Isaac again. There are some visually stunning parts of the film that took my breath away in a jarring, but beautiful, contrast.
In the past, we have discussed who we think should be the next James Bond, but after watching The Card Counter I am without any doubt that Oscar Isaac would be perfect for the moniker of 007. Downing enough whisky to make even the strongest livers feel queasy, Isaac is effortlessly cool and a damn pleasure to see on the screen as Tell. He would perfectly personify Daniel Craig’s more serious take on the role but still be able to throw back to the intense charisma of Bonds past (minus the sexism) as shown through his time as Star Wars’ Poe Dameron. Sure he may be American, but if Daniel Craig can sear himself deep into my subconscious with his Kentucky-Fried accent in Knives Out (2019), I don’t see many people complaining about Isaac being the next step for suave super spies.
If you loved Oscar Isaac in Dune and are desperate for something vaguely Bond after No Time To Die, The Card Counter could not be a better choice as it has more than a few aces up its sleeve.