by Carrie Specht
The Rover is an Australian film set in the not too distant future where some sort of cataclysmic decline in society has occurred. We don’t know how or why, but the world as we know it no longer exists and people now live in a dystopian state as dehumanized individuals that have little regard for human life. The film and its characters are very reminiscent of a few other films I can think of from Australia, such as Mad Max and even Walkabout. But make no mistake, The Rover is unique and packs a powerful punch that will leave you thinking of no other film you’ve seen before.
David Michod wrote (with Joel Edgerton) and directed this sparse and lean chronicle of a man who goes after the men who stole his only possession: his car. Michod’s only previous feature film credit as master and commander was for 2010’s Animal Kingdom. Although this would qualify as his sophomore effort, there are certainly no signs of any slump. If anything, you could say that Michod’s second time at the helm is even more impactful than his first. As bare bones as the mise en scene may be every touch to the overall composition has an edge to it, creating an atmosphere as crisp and full of energy as any action pact scene from a summer block-buster.
I liked this film very much, and have grown to like it even more, the more I think about it. However, I did notice multiple couples get up and leave during the screening I attended. Perhaps they expected something else due to the two stars, Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. Maybe they thought it was going to be something more romantic, or funnier. Pearce is not your usual hero here as a man of few words and the scariest angry look I’ve ever seen in any movie. His unfaltering stares are powerful enough to make you squirm in your seat. And Pattinson is nothing short of a revelation as a (shall we say) mentally encumbered young man whose brother has left him for dead, and whose loyalty shifts to the one person who is actively using him, for better or worse. The accolades both men have been earning since the film’s premier at the Cannes Film Festival are certainly well deserved.
Make no mistake, The Rover will not appeal to everyone. But this small movie is an exceptionally well-crafted film that deserves to be seen. However, it will get lost amongst the gigantic releases populating movie houses during the summer months. So, you’ll have to seek this one out. Think of it as an artistic responsibility, or perhaps your own personal strike in a war against the commercial drudgery of films like The Transformers. Whatever your reason, see it and judge for yourself. My feeling is you’re going to be glad you did.