Director: David Michôd (Animal Kingdom)
Writers: David Michôd, Joel Edgerton
Producers: David Linde, David Michôd, Liz Watts
Starring: Guy Pearce, Chan Kien, Robert Pattinson, Tek Kong Lim, Scoot McNairy
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 103 min.
The Rover is a brutally grim apocalyptic thriller set 10 years after a “collapse” which ravaged Australia, possibly the world. As we enter this world, we see Australia as a sparse and deadened wasteland ravaged by the titular “event”. The collapse could possibly refer to an event that has occurred within Eric (Pearce); the protagonist of the feature. If the exterior event displays the degradation of the materials we currently take for granted, then the insular collapse inside Eric is a crumbling of character and spirit. Despite this, there is a defiance within which we don’t fully understand until the film’s final moments. The final act by Eric will frustrate, upset and maybe even hearten. However for a film goer like myself, writing this a day after viewing, it may also be difficult to forget.
The Rover is a lean cut of a film. There’s little in terms of plot to really grasp on to, and that works to its favour. Pearce’s Eric is drowning his demons in a bar before three thieves make off with his car. By chance, he captures the lead thief’s brother (Robert Patterson) and the two of them work towards finding the trio and the missing vehicle.
David Michôd’s second feature is much more of a mood piece than a solid set adventure. The film is far more interested in the brittleness of those who have lost everything, than a clear destination. An underlying tension pulses through much of the scenes. We find Pearce’s Eric already nearing the brink of being mentally shattered. The theft of his vehicle only pushes him further down the decline. The word hardened doesn’t give the man justice. Pearce again shows the type of intense performance that, we sometimes forget that he’s very good at (the last thing I saw him in was the forgettable Iron Man 3 )
Robert Patterson brings a jumble of man-child tics together to unleash a transformative display. Once again stepping away from the glittery vampire movies that placed him on the map, his role of Reynolds has a slight “Sling Blade ” vibe to proceedings and yet, Patterson still manages to hold his own in an expressive performance that still manages to capture the despondent nature of the film.
Visually stark and with a hard edged tone that is difficult to shake off, The Rover doesn’t bring everything together with the same completeness as other desolate features such as The Proposition, nor does it have the same kinetic energy that the likes of Mad Max brought to post-apocalyptic worlds. But if Mad Max was about the insanity of staying mobile when everything is depleted, The Rover taps into the insular feelings of emotions themselves breaking down that Max only really held as a side note. There’s the same cold feelings of dread felt here that could be found in the likes of Wake in Fright and The Road, although The Rover slips at fully taking us into the world as those two examples did. That doesn’t mean The Rover can’t stand on its own two feet. It just means it holds good company.
Now that we are in the days of DVD extra decline, I find it very heartening that The Rover features an audio commentary by David Michôd that future filmmakers and cinephiles will hopefully treasure. The disc also comes with a making off documentary entitled: “Something Elemental” which dryly hints towards the films tonal approach.
The documentary doesn’t lift the lid on anything salacious or challenging, but with the streaming and download age really flexing their muscles, it’s nice to have a solid extra which gives a little more value to your purchase.
The Documentary; a swift 45 minutes, quickly introduces you to Michôd as a director who is slowly getting used to knowing exactly what he wants, although his talking heads don’t show him at full confidence. The same can be said for Robert Patterson, whose slightly awkward posture and mannerisms actually help show just how powerful his transformation to screen is. Pearce is straight forward and professional, yet talk of his mystique from Michôd help show how his the constant internalization of his character and the barren landscape fit together.
The conversation about shifting Pearce’s character from a younger age to that of someone looking towards middle age is a small but pivotal change, which helps illustrate the worldview that the character holds. Meanwhile The Producers speak highly of the film’s Director of Photography Natasha Braier who, along with production designer Jo Ford, help show just how important their work is in making sure that the sparse Australian landscape becomes one of the most memorable characters of the film.