“If you don’t learn to fight, your death’s gonna come right soon.”
Relentlessly bleak, The Rover‘s dystopian context bears no signs of optimism. Its desolate vastness is vividly represented by the post-apocalyptic Australian outback setting, and yet – it never fully explains its full background. Michôd’s ambiguous plot only outlines one certainty: the world is in disarray.
The Rover opens with Eric (Guy Pearce) – desert-tanned with buzzing flies around him – there is an immediate look in his eyes that strikes him as hopelessly lost. He lives a mechanical existence — one that encompasses the primal necessity of survival. We are then taken to a scene of 3 friends in a car, they crash their own car, steal Eric’s car and drive away. Pearce’s character chases after them, capturing one of the thieves’ brothers (Pattinson) – where they develop an uneasy bond throughout the journey. The length of the film never hints at the specific uniqueness of the car, but this significant plot device drives the film with increasing suspense and uncertainty.
Michôd’s examination into a world where crime and justice have completely collapsed, presents no explanation. Only focusing on the effects of these circumstances, Michôd presents a nihilistic outlook, deliberately pacing the film to reflect the endless torment induced by such ramifications. Its slow shots depicting the barren emptiness of the outback, assisted by its stunning cinematography, provides a unwavering uncertainty which permeates the film. The instantaneous and unexpected violence shocks in comparison to the relatively subdued tone which exacerbates underlying tenseness. Few words are spoken by the characters in the film, and it propels this overwhelming tension, which is supported brilliantly by creative decisions by Michôd. Antony Partos’ minimalist score is extremely effective – from its opening drones from the cello, it provides a powerful accompaniment to accentuate the ongoing uneasiness of the film.
Here, both Pearce and Pattinson are at the top of their game. Subtle, nuanced yet exceptional, their transformative performances render their characters with additional intrigue and interest. But it’s Pearce who leads the film – his dirt-ridden face, and face which displays unexplained emotions – adds to the layer of mixed feelings to these circumstances: pain, suffering, hopelessness, sentiment.
The contrast between Pearce’s and Pattinson’s characters is a fascinating exploration. An unlikely pair, Pearce’s character emits a certain ‘wise’ quality about the changing world, in which Pattinson’s “dim-witted” character cannot face. Michôd’s startling reminder of the innocence of Pattinson’s character is exuberantly blasted by Keri Hilson’s track in the most implausible scene — bringing yet a diverting tone, which is curiously comical. In fact, Michôd, once again, emphasises the devastating impacts of this broken world on humanity.
The Rover is an enthralling watch – its unanswerable questions intertwine with its unpredictability – ultimately ensuring the film’s deliberately paced unravelling remains acutely powerful.
Directed by David Michôd
Produced by David Michôd, David Linde, Liz Watts
Starring: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson
RATING – ★★★★½ out of 5