As the internet obsession with Oscar Isaac continues, it’s worth remembering that he was a mighty fine actor long before he was a dashing fighter pilot from a galaxy far far away.
Mojave follows a suicidal actor who drives off into the desert to end it all. Thomas (Garrett Hedlund) is unfulfilled both personally and professionally, and isn’t entirely sure what he wants in life. As he wonders aimlessly through the night he sets up camp and notices someone coming his way. A mysterious stranger (Oscar Isaac) appears out of the darkness and the pair converse about the universe whilst keeping a wary eye on one another. Deciding he would rather live than take any chances with the stranger, Thomas escapes but in the process accidentally kills a man. Covering his tracks and heading back to his home in L.A., Thomas seeks comfort in his girlfriend (Louise Bourgoin) and looks to reconnect with his old life. Unfortunately, Jack, the aforementioned stranger, witnessed the murder and has followed his ‘friend’ out of the desert…
Isaac portrays the nefarious Jack with real relish. We never fully know what makes him tick, and that’s what makes his obsessive pursuit of Thomas all the more chilling. He’s charming, in a rough around the edges sort of way, and his perverse logic somehow manages to resonate. Let’s not forget that Thomas is very much a guilty party in all of this.
Hedlund has had a mixed career in recent years. From Tron: Legacy to Pan, his blockbusters haven’t really lived up to the hype, but his so-called smaller films have showcased some acting talent. He’s worked with Isaac before, in the indie-favourite Inside Llewyn Davis, and for the most part in Mojave it is just the two of them on screen.
You become embroiled in the cat-and-mouse battle between the pair, but also the ongoing internal battle each of them face. Thomas is conflicted by guilt and fear, whereas Jack is angry and devious. His plans to reach out and grab what he wants vary from ingenious to outright brutality.
There is also a real sense of space too. The desert gives us room to breathe and the city feels claustrophobic. The characters get their teeth into the meaty dialogue and the face-off between Jack and Thomas at the end is a fitting conclusion.
Director and writer William Monahan has worked on huge projects like Kingdom of Heaven and The Departed. The real triumph here is in keeping us guessing about what Jack actually represents and in who we want to back throughout. Is Thomas even worth saving?
We have occasional appearances from Mark Wahlberg and Walton Goggins, but these feel unnecessary. The action might take a while to get going but it remains thrilling all the while. The characters are worth investing in. Isaac oozes a slick and stylish aura that is matched by the aloof story-telling that keeps you guessing until the very end.