Synopsis: A suicidal artist goes into the desert, where he finds his doppelgänger, a homicidal drifter.
Release Date: January 22,2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Oscar Isaac is one of the hottest young stars in Hollywood right now. He’s worked in huge blockbusters (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), critical darlings (Ex Machina), and hipster flicks (Inside Llewyn Davis). And even with all that going on, he still has time to make little independent movies like Mojave.
Mojave is about a depressed Hollywood filmmaker named Thomas (Unbroken‘s Garrett Hedlund) who goes out to the Mojave Desert to do some soul searching. While there, he meets an enigmatic stranger named Jack (Isaac) with whom he shares campfire conversation about everything from Moby Dick and Shakespeare to mortgages and the desert itself. After a while, Thomas starts to get spooked by Jack’s nihilistic attitude. Thomas is able to get away from Jack, but when he suspects that the crazy guy is following him, he accidentally kills an innocent hiker. Thomas escapes back to Hollywood, but Jack follows, knowing that Thomas is now a murderer and planning to hold that secret over his head. Once Jack learns that Thomas is semi-successful and kind of famous in show business, he starts a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with Thomas until one of them inevitably breaks.
Writer/director William Monahan (London Boulevard) found the inspiration for Mojave in his own existential crisis. He came up with the idea while on his own desert retreat/escape; he found himself alone in the dark, and he wondered what he would do if someone were to randomly walk out of the dark and into his camp. Instead of turning this terrifying idea into what would have made a very obvious horror movie, Monahan instead focused his attention on what would happen AFTER the meeting. The resulting movie is an extremely tense and effective thriller.
In a lot of ways, Mojave is a lot of fuse and very little boom, but it works. The script is very wordy, with long and draw out scenes of intense and focused dialogue. The conversations are interrupted sporadically by sharp little bouts of shocking violence, but most of the brutality is psychological. A huge chunk of the movie simply boils down to Thomas and Jack trying to outwit and one-up each other. At least, that’s what the good parts of the movie boil down to.
There are some weird sections of Mojave that almost seem like afterthoughts, as if the movie was running short and needed some padding so Monahan tossed in a little bit of comic relief. These scenes include a pair of big stars, Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter) and Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight), as Thomas’ movie producer partners, but both play such archetypical Hollywood douchebag characters that they’re difficult to take seriously. Their scenes are the lulls in the film; the audience just finds itself wanting the story arc to get back to Jack and Thomas.
Fans of the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino will probably be able to find something to like in Mojave. It’s got the elements of a desolate road movie, a psycho stalker flick, and a noir crime drama all rolled up into one neat and tidy package. It’s not all explosions and car chases, but that does not mean that it doesn’t pack a heavy punch.
The most compelling scenes in Mojave are those that are essentially just conversations between Thomas and Jack. Oscar Isaac and Garrett Hedlund have a tense chemistry between them that results in some absolutely gripping moments. From their first meeting around Thomas’ campfire to the climactic showdown (which, of course, occurs mostly through talking rather than fighting), Isaac and Hedlund get deep into the interplay between their characters. Unlike many hero-villain movies, neither actor seems to be struggling against the other for screen time. Both actors bring an intensity to the movie, but it’s an intensity that is offset by humor. They can make the audience laugh, but never disarm it enough for it to feel safe – every conversation which Isaac and Hedlund share is explosive, and every scene they’re in is electric. The chemistry between Oscar Isaac and Garrett Hedlund is what makes Mojave such a volatile and dangerous movie.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): William Monahan
- Producer(s): Aaron L. GinsburgWilliam GreenJustine Suzanne JOnesWilliam Monahan
- Screenwriter(s): William Monahan
- Cast: Oscar Isaac (Jack)Garrett Hedlund (Thomas)Mark Wahlberg (Norman) Walton Goggins (Jim)
- Editor(s): John David Allen
- Cinematographer: Don Davis
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Arielle Antoine
- Casting Director(s): John Papsidera
- Music Score: Andrew Hewitt
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA