Rover, The (2014)

Review #1,078

Director:  David Michod
Cast:  Guy PearceRobert PattinsonScoot McNairy
Plot:  10 years after a global economic collapse, a hardened loner pursues the men who stole his only possession, his car.  Along the way, he captures one of the thieves' brother, and the duo form an uneasy bond during the dangerous journey.

Genre:  Crime / Drama
Awards:  Official Selection (Cannes).
Runtime:  103min
Rating:  NC16 for language and some bloody violence.

“You should never stop thinking about a life you've taken.  That's the price you pay for taking it.”

Robert Pattinson stars opposite Guy Pearce in this road movie that can be quite challenging to watch, and perhaps fulfilling in some way.  Pearce plays a battle-hardened man whose car is stolen in front of his eyes by a trio of runaways.  He gives chase in a brilliantly directed opening sequence, one of the year's best, until he can no longer give chase.  Then Pattinson's aloof and wounded character comes into play and the aim is to find his brother who left him for dead, also incidentally one of the runaways. 

The Rover is quite thin on plot, doesn't do a lot with its characters, and slowly-paced.  It's not a film for everybody, and it takes a keen eye (and ear) to appreciate what director David Michod is trying to do here.  He wants to evoke a sense of loss and quiet despair, of the mournful beauty of the vast, desolate Australian landscape. 

It is also a landscape of fear, ruled by a post-apocalyptic anarchy.  But in essence, the landscape hasn't changed much, only the people.  Money is useless; guns are useful.  There's a mention of Sydney, but we never know what happened ten years ago.  We are only aware at the start of the film that Australia had collapsed, perhaps economically, maybe more than that.  Though I suspect the characters in Michod's film are living the better life – they control their destinies, even if they are violent destinies. 

Michod, who previously made the acclaimed Animal Kingdom (2010), his first feature, and also the film that landed actress Jacki Weaver her first Oscar nomination, exhibits a directorial nous associated with filmmakers with a strong sense of cinematic form and style.  Together with cinematographer Natasha Braier (The Milk of Sorrow, 2009), they make full use of location shooting and natural lighting brilliantly, capturing sometimes astonishing visuals.

In many ways, and this might seem strange, The Rover reminds me of P. T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007), not so much its epic scope and superior craftsmanship, but the eccentric marriage of sight and sound, in this case, of music.  Composer Antony Partos channels his inner Jonny Greenwood in an unorthodox, sometimes disharmonious, score of haunting rhythms and moods.  The end result is a film that demands appreciation, despite its flaws.

Verdict:  Startlingly violent and seemingly bereft of hope, this post-apocalyptic road movie works as an evocation of loss and quiet despair.


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