‘Mojave’ Film Review


I absolutely love Oscar Isaac, and I truly think that the actor can do no wrong with his performances. Unfortunately, though, one (or two) great performances cannot a great movie make, and Mojave is the latest example of that tragedy.

Mojave, a 2015 film that debuted on DirecTV Cinema in December before a limited theatrical release a couple of weeks ago, is a crime drama that was written and directed by William Monohan, a novelist and screenwriter that is best-known for writing The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s 2006 Academy Award-winning drama that earned Monohan an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Monohan’s work on The Departed should have made him perfect for a slow-burning thriller such as Mojave, but that is unfortunately not the case. Mojave tells the story of a an artist (played by Garrett Hedlund) who, tired of the world, heads out to the desert to find himself. While there, he runs into a mysterious drifter (played by Oscar Isaac), who turns out to be much deeper than he appears. Through the course of the film, these two characters engage in a game of cat-and-mouse that ends in a final confrontation in the desert.

The strength of the film, by-and-large, is in the performances of the two leads, played by Hedlund and Isaac. Hedlund manages to perfectly capture the emotion of the near-suicidal artist, and he is easily able to flip the switch on the character’s personality whenever necessary. Isaac, on the other hand, completely sells the level-headed psychopath that he plays, stealing the scene whenever he has a line. Isaac also gets a couple of great monologues (some of the only strong writing in the movie, actually) that would probably be on an awards reel for a better movie. Side characters in Mojave are also surprisingly well-acted, with Walton Goggins and Mark Wahlberg delivering memorable performances that are far better than the film deserves.

There are plenty of weaknesses in Mojave, but the biggest one is the writing. Pacing for the film is absolutely atrocious, and you can easily feel the screenplay being the reason for this. It’s crazy to think that this material came from the same person that adapted The Departed, and it almost feels as if there were no story in mind aside from the relationship between Hedlund and Isaac’s characters. Monohan manages some surprisingly solid directing, making it even more unclear why the quality of the writing was so poor. It’s obvious that Monohan had a message in mind, but more work should have been put into fleshing things out. Even the thriller nature of Mojave falls flat because of how sluggish events play out. There’s a difference between deliberate pacing and bad pacing, and Mojave is, unfortunately, a case of the latter. Also, if I never hear the word “brother” again, it will be too soon.

For anyone that’s interested in seeing Oscar Isaac in more films after The Force Awakens, there are much better options than Mojave. Isaac and Garrett Hedlund’s performances are truly the only saving grace in the film, and it’s a shame that so much talent was wasted on this.

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  1. Jen
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