Oscar Isaac does a great job portraying this eerie villain who is a drastic departure from the usual charming and likable characters he has played in his career. From the moment Thomas and Jack meet around the campfire it becomes quite clear that the latter is a raving lunatic. He talks in circles and walks that line between comical and dangerous. Thomas is the straight man in these encounters and is a surrogate for the audience when he tries to make head or tails of Jack’s monologues. The two men play well off each other and their conversations provide for the film’s more intriguing and absurd moments. The film tries to explore philosophical ground but falls flat due to the uneven tone. Jack brings up Shakespeare and metaphorical ideas in his ramblings but that doesn’t make them any easier to understand. The supporting cast includes Mark Wahlberg and Walton Goggins in small roles that act as the comic relief in an otherwise sobering narrative.
Mojave’s biggest Achilles heel is that… well it doesn’t make much sense. The two biggest questions on my mind were: “Why is this story even happening?” and “Does this movie know it’s a joke?” There are parts of the movie that I really enjoyed but others that dragged on for the sake of it. The pacing is just so disjointed. The scene around the campfire in the desert and Jack’s search for Thomas stand out in the collage of insanity that is this movie. There comes a point in the movie when Jack asks Thomas, “Do you know yet which one of us is the bad guy?” This is probably the prime example which shows that Mojave is trying to be more clever than it has any right to be. While Thomas is by no means a good person, I don’t know how an over-the-top cartoon villain can ask that question non-ironically. To its credit, Mojave attempts to give some sort of insight into the two central characters. When Jack is tracking down Thomas and learns about his connections to Hollywood, there is resentment there. This is elaborated upon when the two reconnect again. Jack is jealous of Thomas’ fame and success as an artist which suggests this grudge against his rival goes beyond what happened in the desert. The film also alludes to his troubled background as an underachiever but ultimately leaves it up in the air for your imagination.
So, is Mojave worth your time? There are good movies and there are bad movies but I think this one is the good kind of bad. The best backhanded compliment I can give Mojave is that the movie is only 90 minutes long and a breeze to get through. Oscar Isaac is fun to watch on screen as he makes the most of a bizarre character that is quite unpredictable. I don’t expect the movie to resonate with most people but hopefully the film will give some food for thought and might provoke some interesting contemplation. At the very least, I’m certain Mojave will be unlike anything you see in theatres in 2016.