The Rover

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Release: Friday, June 13, 2014 (limited)

[Theater]

People often are products of their environment. In the case of The Rover, it seems to be the other way around.

If that sounds like a call for the environmentally-minded to flock to their nearest indie/arthouse theater to see this flick, I don’t believe I could be more misleading. This unrelentingly bleak drama about a desperate man in search of his stolen vehicle in the middle of the sprawling Australian Outback has as much to do with environmental sustainability as Twilight has to do with vampires sucking blood.

Random reference? Sure, it might seem so. I’d be lying to you though if I said The Rover doesn’t rely on a moving performance from one Robert Pattinson (of said sugar-coated vampire-tale fame).

You know what, I actually did just lie. Well, only slightly. While the film provides ample screen time for Pattinson’s Rey — a homely and somewhat dim-witted young man whose backstory isn’t very clear — its gut-punch is delivered through the tension building up between both its leading males, that of Pattinson and the brutal role Guy Pearce has once again been saddled with. This time he plays Eric, an enigmatic loner seen in the film’s open taking a long pause in his car before stumbling into a shack and pouring himself a large drink.

Eric is no sooner tipping the glass back in an extended gesture of despair — welcome to the unforgiving realms of the place those on the outside (i.e. me) like to simply call ‘The Land Down Under’ — when he hears his car being stolen. The event is both dramatic and beautifully understated, playing out as a seemingly singular event from which we ought to recover soon. We don’t. In fact we go tumbling down the rabbit hole instead, as Eric quickly goes in pursuit and subsequently as things go from bad to vile.

The Rover can hardly be accused of overcomplicating things. Here’s a very simple premise that may even border on the pointless. Yet to dismiss the narrative as such would be to grossly overlook the startling themes that are presented. Set in a world a decade after the fallout of society as we currently know it — a subtitle before the movie gets going contributes to a sense of disorientation very early on — we are forced to confront a reality that has been teetering on the edge, only now pushed beyond it and here is the aftermath. What better location in which to film in order to convey this idea than in the unforgiving deserts of the Outback. Each scene featured in The Rover emphasizes a lack of humanity and an abundance of misery.

Each one also categorically confronts us with the truth about the power of currency and how powerless society could will be without it. A myriad of camera angles lingers on many a broken and decrepit edifice, on dirt floors and people existing in squalor — ordinarily stuff that wouldn’t be very compelling to watch on their own terms. But there’s a larger plot at work here, beyond the search for Eric’s car. Michôd’s story, an effort resulting from the collaboration between himself and Aussie native Joel Edgerton, attempts to reduce humans to their material possessions when faced with the alternative of having absolutely nothing at all. That it does very well through the winding plot of Pearce going after the one thing he can’t stand to lose.

The Rover ought to be viewed as a straightforward drama whose personality only gets slightly confused when it attempts to break from its oppressive shackles of physical and emotional brutality. Scenes such as the tumbling SUV as viewed through a window, and a particularly sensitive moment for Rey as he sings along to an American pop tune jut out but only distractingly. There aren’t any other scenes like these, which may prove more problematic for some viewers than for others. Alternatively, they may be looked at as welcomed oases from the misery.

Featuring another turn for Scoot “my middle name is Bleak” McNairy, who plays Rey’s conflicted brother, this is a film that most definitely supports the cliché ‘it’s really not about the destination, but the journey in getting there.’ Fortunately there’s slightly more to the affair than that, such as the evidence Pattinson provides for his case that he can, in fact, affect drama significantly.

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3-5Recommendation: The Rover is likely to prove too uneventful and even more conceivably, far too dark for many. This isn’t a film that cares to celebrate humanity. However there is enough drama and suspense to satisfy a more niched audience, and Aussie audiences are bound to find the use of the unforgiving reaches of the Outback compelling cinema. Bolstered by solid work from a consistent act in Guy Pearce and further buoyed by Pattinson’s odd but affecting support, this film won’t be as impacting as the director’s previous effort, Animal Kingdom, but it is intensely watchable and that’s good enough for me.

Rated: R

Running Time: 103 mins.

Quoted: “Your brother left you to die. He’s abandoned you out here to me.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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26 thoughts on “The Rover

    • Thanks Zoe! You definitely absolutely positively should. The Rover is a dark movie, but it’s well-acted, and holy shit. Robert Pattinson is so good.

      You seriously will NOT believe he is also in the Twilight series. . . . .

  1. This may be a major hit or bore me to the point of wanting to smash up my car just to entertain myself before realizing…I just smashed up my damn car. I mean, some people would go as far as killing others for touching their car.

    Anyways, I cannot really say much yet…because I really want to see this but have yet to get the chance. Great read though as always Tom!

    • Yeah sometimes it’s hard to know if something is right for you or not. In this case, I went in just knowing the trailer looked pretty cool, and I really am a fan of Guy Pearce although I haven’t noticed it until recently. lol. he quickly sold me on this, and now that I’ve seen it he wasn’t the best reason to see it. That honor goes to seeing Robert Pattinson completely break away from his Twilight b.s. He’s great.

      Don’t destroy your car. It’s not worth it. (I speak from experience.)

    • I personally couldn’t get enough of what Pattinson laid down here. He blew me away. Which, when you see it, don’t be surprised if you are letdown by my gushing. Often my first impressions are really strong and they even are over-reactionary haha. But for whatever reason, his work just did something for me. This isn’t to say Guy Pearce is a laughing matter, either. he’s fierce. But Pattinson was def a big surprise.

      Hope you enjoy Fernando

      • Yeah, Pearce is a proven talent but I’m willing to let Pattinson prove me wrong after seeing him be stiff as hell in the Twilight films and Water for Elephants.

        • Hence my anticipation for your reaction to him. 🙂

          Though I’ve never put myself through Twilight, I’ll go ahead and presume he’s awful. So far he’s just guilty by association in my book, but here he turns in some quality work.

  2. Though I like Pearce, this film just looks too bleak and gloomy for my liking. I’m not fond of Pattinson at all, I know ppl say he’s good here but I dunno, he just hasn’t sold me yet.

    • Fair’s fair, Ruth. It’s not a picture that’s going to grab everyone. It keeps even the audience that comes to see it at an arm’s reach with it’s unsettling graphic violence at times and it’s moody, slow winding story during others. I managed to escape it in tact, but it’s a bleak one, there’s no doubt about it.

  3. I didn’t have a problem with it being uneventful. After all Under the Skin is one of my favorite films of the year and that has a very spare narrative. But that film had an interesting point to make. The problem is that this one didn’t.

    • Certainly. I managed to extract a pretty deep message here, even if it wasn’t one necessarily unique. And maybe it’s less of a ‘point’ or a ‘statement’ that Michod was making as much as it was just a necessary truth he exposed of our existence: we absolutely, 100% cannot do without one another. People aren’t meant to live alone and in suffering.

      This is what I got out of it. But your review was definitely interesting as well, I see no fault in not liking The Rover! The ‘non-events’ were pretty abysmal. 🙂

    • Yes, Blue Ruin would be a better comparison in all honesty. Loved that film, too. But if you’ll notice I still don’t have a post up on that one yet as I haven’t been able to assemble my thoughts at all on it. Haha. I guess that happens to us all sometimes. .

    • Thanks so much Ryan, The Rover is intense but I think it rewards you for your patience at the end. I thought so, at least. This might not be a consensus opinion

  4. Tom, great review mate, and you raise some interesting points. I do think that there are some themes that perhaps do not resonate with an international audience as much as they do with us Aussies. I do actually think the film is making some pertinent environmental points. But they are made quite subtly. A lot of the background stuff in the film is a real allegory for the current situation out here where mining companies are really getting a free reign, especially since the election of the new government in September last year. I think the film gives life to a lot of concerns that many in this country have about mining and the environmental degradation it brings.

    Great review though man. Agree, it is a challenging film at times but one I absolutely loved.

      • Hahah no sir, you did not! I do believe this is my first ‘true’ Australian production. I’m not referring to any movies that happen to feature Australian actors or just an Aussie at the helm of the project; but a film steeped in the environs and featuring people from the area. So, yes, I think this is a first! And a damn good one, at that. I actually really quite loved The Rover, but I do have to admit the more thought I give to the way the story flows it could have been done better. But it was seriously thrilling the one time through!

        Great insight on the environmental themes, man. I was picking up slight hints at it, though wasn’t sure how much Michod was ultimately trying to make of that. Glad to know I was on the trail, though. Very fascinating stuff.

    • Kick-ass Mikey!!! 😀 😀 Thanks a lot, i’m having a lot of fun getting around the indie circuit right now! 😀

  5. Working on my review for this as we speak! I absolutely adore this film, definitely wasn’t what I expected. Tremendous performances, a cleverly honest premise, and unbearable tension really make this a knock out punch. Excellent post, Tom!

    • Awesome man, I’ll be on by shortly to read it man. I’m very happy to hear you’ve been impressed. The more I think on it the more I have problems with it but that doesn’t mean I like it any less. This is a solid but dark film, and sometimes a really bleak picture is just what I need! I call it this summer’s Killing them Softly. It really reminds me of that, but it might be a touch better.

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