Director: David Michod
Cast: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy
Running Time: 1hr 43mins
Plot: An embittered widower sets off on a cross country rampage over the Australian plains when his car gets jacked by a pack of low level thugs. It’s like Mad Max, except realistic.
Having made his name shooting documentaries and thrashing out stellar scripts for Hollywood production companies, Aussie director David Michod hyphenates between acting, producing and directing with stunning ease. He’s even mates with Joel Edgerton! The former film critic’s big break came in 2010 when he released his first feature film, the gritty and much acclaimed Animal Kingdom. Four years on and Michod has spawned yet another haunting tale of human desolation, this time starring Guy Pearce in the lead role as a brooding killer out for vengeance.
The Rover’s action takes place ten years from now in the country/continent of Australia, which has suffered a catastrophic socio-economic breakdown due to a crisis referred to as ‘The Collapse’. How badly global trade and governmental control have been affected by this tritely termed event is never clarified, but from the packs of mercenaries roaming the lands and the disturbingly casual use of firearms we can assume that the law is now something the Outbackers must enforce on their own. Guy Pearce’s morose and unblinking loner, who goes unnamed until the credits, is but one sorry soul unfortunate enough to live in this barren, dingo-eat-dingo world. After his car is stolen by a gang on the run he spends the rest of the film tracking them down, by happenstance picking up the mentally challenged brother (Robert Pattinson) of the chief bandit (Scoot McNairy) along the way.
The Rover dwells deeply on the randomness of life and the bleak realities of a world without order. ‘Not everything has to be about something’ – this line, delivered by an impressive Robert Pattinson in a lull after the films most distressing scene, pierces the veil of pointlessness and gloom that shrouds the film, and in a way even justifies it. When the film is over, the look in his traumatised eyes as he utters this profundity helps make up for a somewhat frustrating ending.
Script co-author Joel Edgerton (who for all we know gets a writing credit for turning to Michod in a pub and saying, ‘Hey, y’know they’re redoing Mad Max with my pal Tom Hardy who starred alongside me in that brilliant MMA film Warrior? Right, well imagine if they remade it but, like, real. Like no bullshit or nothing’.) shares Michod’s enthusiasm for sparse, blunt dialogue – death threats and profanities are in abundance. What might have been a thrilling thirty minute short David Michod has turned into a smouldering 103 minutes of tension and dread. Most impactful of all The Rover’s elements, even more so than DoP Natasha Braier’s blistering cinematography, is the shattering soundtrack, which sets an immersive atmosphere of anguish and unease.
For your post-apocalyptic fix, The Rover is more than adequate. It is very, very bleak, but the direction is beautiful and the story – the meat of which is sinewy at best – is driven by two powerful yet massively different performances from Robert Pattinson and Guy Pearce. If there is one complaint it would be that the gestation periods between dialogues are a little long and a little dull for it. Final verdict: Not as good as The Road, but way better than The Book of Eli.
Can’t get the trailer to embed in this post, so click these words right here.