LOOK NO FURTHER IF YOU DO NOT WANT DETAILS FROM THE MOVIE, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Quick plot, Thomas (Hedlund) is a writer who lives in Los Angeles and works on movies. He has a crisis and drives out to the desert. His car gets wrecked and he spend the night at the desert where he meets Jack (Isaac). In the uncomfortable encounter they get into a fight. Thomas, hides out in a cave. When someone comes to the mouth of the cave he awakes from his sleep and shoots. It was not Jack, but a police officer. The plot unfolds.
Alright, so after this I have concluded that spooky Los Angeles movies are full-out spooky.
This is told with a quiet sort of terror, the fear that the threat of Jack brings. It’s a real story of stalking and suspense builds but then there are breaks from that as Thomas has to carry on with the problems he had before the desert. It’s cool to see how he tries to live his life while balancing this guy who is out to kill him and the fact that he killed someone. Hedlund and Isaac both give performances that are enthralling.
A Psychological Experiment
I realized that I have a real thing for characters who are foils. In this case they are not foils in that they are very different but they almost seem like two outcomes of the same person. I’d like to think that maybe the whole movie did not happen, that there really was no Jack but the talks and destruction of him was Thomas’ way of dealing with himself and his conflicts. I don’t think the story was an illusion, I just think it’s interesting to think of Mojave as a psychological experiment of beginning again.
Thinking about this split-personality (as in Jack and Thomas have the same interests, skills, almost same mindset are not, in fact, the same) makes sense following William Monahan’s (the writer and director) trajectory. The Departed, which he wrote, concerns itself greatly with duality and different personalities within a person (See: Remakes and Remaking- Chapter “Hellish Departures?”), whether it is the split personalities of Costigan’s upbringing in two sides of Boston that made him perfect to go undercover or Sullivan’s facade of being a cop while helping Costello. It doesn’t surprise me that this Monahan film carries on with this same theme.
I feel like there is an essay to be written here about “schizophrenic” type characters and what they mean in these movies.
On the topic of Scorsese, when Jack came on screen there was something I couldn’t quite pinpoint about how he talked that I recognized. A few minutes later my mom said “is he like Cape Fear?” and I thought “oohhhhhh, that’s who I’m thinking of”. There are some similarities to Max Cady (at least the DeNiro version I’ve seen) besides how he talked such as the stalking and just how scary he was. I mean, when Jack goes to the theatre to watch the same play Thomas was watching is a parallel to Cady finding the Bowdens in Cape Fear.
Though when one is kind of a movie nerd finding parallels is not hard so maybe I am reaching too much. Speaking of reaching, I liked Jack’s bandana and it reminded me of Harvey Keitel’s in Taxi Driver which made it click for me that Scorsese references makes sense as Monahan has worked with him before.
The movie is one I found genuinely interesting and there were parts with super tense suspense. It is stylistically gorgeous, even down to what the characters wear, Lots of philosophy, talking, and interesting performances. Why not spend 90 minutes in the desert?
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The book I referred to earlier is “Remakes and Remaking: Concepts- Media- Practices” by Rüdiger Heinze and Lucia Krämer. The chapter on The Departed is Hellish Depatures? The Departed, Infernal Affairs and Globalized Film Cultures . You can find the book at Columbia University Press here.