Best known for his Academy Award winning screenplay The Departed, writer and director William Monahan must always have in the back of his mind that it’s a damn hard act to follow, And his work since (Oblivion, The Gambler, etc.) has failed to live up to many people’s expectations. With Mojave, Monahan has written quite an interesting story, with quite good dialogue, it’s even directed and performed quite well, however none of these aspects ever quite dovetail together to form the coherent, gripping narrative that it so aims to be.
Garrett Hedlund (Troy, On The Road) is Thomas, a famous writer, depressed and struggling to cope with the pressures of being a thinking man in Hollywood. In sombre reflection on the state of his career and the world, he ventures out into the desert seemingly to find himself, find something else, or just wander around until it all ceases to be relevant. Whilst camping, Thomas is discovered by a mysterious hermit, Jack, played by Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Inside Llewyn Davis). Thomas is wary, standoffish, but allows Jack to sit by the fire for a while and the two share their philosophical, high-minded views on the world as they see it. There is constant tension in the dense fireside air, and after a short while Thomas, feeling threatened, cracks, and a brawl ensues, resulting in Jack lying prone on the desert floor, and Thomas walking off into the night with the hermit’s rifle. Throughout the duel, what I would term as the “over-developed” dialogue doesn’t skip a beat, casting the scene as more a battle of wits than two guys beating lumps out of each other in the sand. Much of the film is characterised by this type of dialogue, writing more for the beauty of its prose rather than its effectiveness on screen.
Following their initial encounter, the film becomes a tale of cat and mouse as Jack, who we discover to be a very dangerous man indeed, pursues Thomas first through the Mojave, and then into Hollywood. There was a brief, 20 minute period where I thought this was thrilling, and I wanted to find out more about why our protagonists act as they do, however I was to be left bitterly disappointed. Thomas can never quite shake the fact that he is just an arrogant, prick-ish writer, and with Jack there is never enough method behind the madness to justify his presence; does he represent some kind of moral/immoral standpoint? Or is he just a tool to create a bit of tension? Either way, I pretty much stopped caring about what happened to them.
There are some interesting ideas here, and some cracking bits of dialogue, sadly more befitting a two-man play than an on-screen thriller. The cinematography is excellent, this being an obvious benefit of the setting, I just find it hard to believe that there are ever going to be two such people wandering around in the desert. Both Hedlund and Isaac give convincing performances, but neither are really given characters with enough depth to showcase their talents.
Oh and Mark Wahlberg’s in it. Take from that what you will.
2.5 / 5
Dir: William Monahan
Scr: William Monahan
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund, Mark Wahlberg, Walton Goggins, Louise Bourgoin
Prd: Aaron L. Ginsburg, William Green, Justine Suzanne Jones, William Monahan
DOP: Don Davis
Run time: 93 mins
Mojave is released in cinemas and on demand on 25th March 2016