BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE ROVER / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: DAVID MICHÔD / SCREENPLAY: DAVID MICHÔD, JOEL EDGERTON / STARRING: GUY PEARCE, ROBERT PATTINSON, SCOTT MCNAIRY / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 5TH
Dan Hill once sang “it’s a long road, when you’re on your own” but judging by David Michôd’s (Animal Kingdom) drama/thriller, it isn’t much better when you have company. The Rover is a film suited to appeal to different audiences; some will love its style, others will switch the film off. However, one thing that cannot be denied about this polarising offering is the skilful evocation of its post-apocalyptic world. The Rover, penned by Michôd and Joel Edgerton, has echoes of Cormac McCarthy’s work, with dashes of 1988’s Rain Man and a less action-packed Mad Max. While the film’s futuristic, desolated setting is too vague for its own good, there is an interesting film here.
The film is set in the Australian outback, 10 years after ‘the collapse,’ and a group of criminals have got into an altercation with the military and are on the run. In their panic, the group crash their car and jump in the nearest vehicle available, which happens to belong to loner Eric (Pearce), who is desperate to get his car back. To do so he comes across one of the group’s wounded members in Reynolds (Pattinson), who was left behind, and uses him as a guide to find the gang’s hideout and reclaim his car. As odd as the plot seems, the tone is not really the issue with The Rover. In fact, the opening of the film is amazingly atmospheric and an early innovative chase scene lays the groundwork for a potential masterpiece, as does the unexpected and intriguing conclusion. Sadly, the issue falls in the central, overlong stretch of the film, which veers from provoking to pretentious. There is no doubting the appeal of ambiguity, but by the finale you are more than ready for a resolution of some sort.
The Rover is an ambitious film at points, and its presentation of a broken world through Natasha Braier’s gritty cinematography is great, as is the occasionally chilling score by Antony Partos. Shame the pacing slows the momentum of the film down to a stop at points and the film’s initially playful vacuity becomes annoying. True ‘the collapse’ is open to interpretation, and it is interesting to dissect, but the film’s over-reliance on vagueness means that you are infuriatingly distant from it. Michôd’s direction is mostly contemplative, but the lingering long shots and recycled moments within feel meaningless at points, and come the climax (which we felt worked well in giving the film a message) many may feel the destination was certainly not worth the journey.
That being said, and despite a lot of supporting character’s motivations being rendered as little more than McGuffin, the leading performances are brilliant. Guy Pearce is impressively rough-edged as Eric, who is clearly a victim of this new world, having witnessed the moral-free actions that have surrounded the collapse. Pearce, in limited moments of speech, allows his worn and exasperated facial expressions to do much of the talking, although many more will be surprised at how well Robert Pattinson matches him as co-lead (yes, seriously). Pattinson as Reynolds (the needy and slightly naive brother of McNairy’s criminal Henry) proves he can act and delivers an incredibly strong accented performance that recalls Tom Hardy’s drawl in Lawless.
While the story and characters are reliably tragic and downbeat, there are moments of impressive reflection in Michôd’s film. Many may be left with little to really love about this overly grey film, but for all its pacing issues and overstretched running time The Rover shows how the postmodern world is in danger of losing all hope as it heads towards financial oblivion. Downbeatness aside, this is a good follow-up from Michôd that confirms his aspirations, although you are left with the thought that this would have made a far better short film than full-length feature. Flawed but fascinating.
Special Extras: Audio commentary / Making-of
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