| April 4, 2016

When film director Tom (Garrett Hedlund; Tron Legacy) needs a break from the stress of being on set, he heads out into the Mojave Desert to camp, hike, hunt, and relax.  Everything goes well until a mysterious stranger, Jack (Oscar Isaac; Star Wars: The Force Awakens), shows up and presents a real threat to Tom, forcing him to take action to escape Jack’s persuit, and setting off a fun cat and mouse game that plays out over the course of the film, well after Tom leaves the desert to resume his life in Hollywood.

It turns out that I’ve been a fan of Garrett Hedlund for a while, but never recognize him from role to role, and his portrayal of Tom here is yet another role for him to disappear into and bring to life.  I like that Tom is not a victim at all.  He makes mistakes that would rip average people apart, but manages to adapt and push past the emotional trauma to keep surviving.  As Jack learns about Tom as his chosen adversary, he tries several modes of physical and psychological attack on him, but Tom proves to be a worthy opponent and it creates a really interesting dynamic between the characters.

I love Oscar Isaac as a performer.  The more I see him in, the more range I see him capable of, and the more I think he’s going to be remembered as one of the all time great actors.  My favorite thing about him here is that I have no idea why he’s doing anything, which sounds like something that should be a criticism.  It’s certainly a criticism of mine concerning Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman, whose motivations are a complete mystery.  I think the difference is that while Luthor’s endgame is unclear, Jack simply wants to win the game and kill Tom.  I don’t need to know why he wants that because I can invent a dozen more terrifying reasons myself than anything the movie could tell me through exposition.  Sometimes people die, and those people have no idea why they were chosen as an intended victim.  There’s something really effective and scary about that idea.

There are a lot of parallels drawn in the film between Jack’s character and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but his lack of clear motivation for wanting to take down Tom reminds me more of Iago from Othello, whose motivations are also unclear but he is easily the best villain Shakespeare ever wrote, and possibly in literary history.  The parallels to Hamlet are interesting though because it speaks volumes about Jack’s character and how he sees himself as the hero of the story, doing what’s necessary to defeat the evil he perceives in Tom.  It’s really fascinating to watch, and makes for a great little intimate thriller.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD on April 5.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
Filed in: Video and DVD

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