“Mojave” is an examination of the privileged lives of artists, an existential “mind-game” thriller, and a comedy all at once.
Bolstered by terrific performances, it’s clearly one of the best (fiction) films at the Tribeca Film Festival.
A famous actor (Garret Hedlund, in easily his best role to date) ventures off to the Mojave desert in an attempt to get off the grid and escape the hellish grip of Hollywood. While stumbling drunk in the vastness, he encounters a drifter (the incomprable Oscar Isaac, who is on a serious roll since his debut in “Inside Llewyn Davis,”) and through the mysterious man’s existential musings it arises that he may be the devil himself … or not.
There may be no actor working today as magnetic or fun to watch as Isaac. Early in the film, the Guatemalan-born American channels a burned out Jack Sparrow crossed with Dennis Hopper’s character in “Easy Rider” as he gets in the head of the wandering star.
The drifter’s physical appearance transforms as the film dives deeper into the story. Isaac is a pure force on-screen, and he is in top form here.
The film is very talky and contemplative, but that doesn’t make it boring. A great deal of the movie actually takes place outside of the desert and becomes a sort of cat-and-mouse game between the two characters. The script isn’t exactly subtle, but the philosophical waxing by Isaac expresses the film’s themes.
Hedlund (who did solid work in “Tron: Legacy“) shows his range when he wrestles with himself and this stranger who is questioning him in the middle of the wild.
The more metaphyiscal moments are bookended by huge laughs or broad strokes that seem to accentuate the idea that Hollywood is a dangerous cesspool of self-serving ambitions. There’s also a great uncredited cameo that expands on this, and it has a hilariously clever payoff.
What’s a man to do with the devil inside himself? While the film seems to pose big questions such as this, it’s also not afraid to poke fun at these ideas, and that’s part of what makes it so enjoyable.
While Isaac’s character is certainly the more menacing, it’s hard to not be struck when he asks of Hedlund: “Do you know yet which one of us is the bad guy?”
“Mojave” is a confined film full of expansive ideas, and it isn’t afraid to keep its tongue firmly in cheek. The film will make you think, make you laugh, and maybe even force you to question your own inner turmoil.
“Mojave” is playing at the Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday April 19th, Wednesday April 22nd and Friday April 24th. Tickets are available here.
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