*** (out of 5)
June 20, 2014
Guy Pearce as ERIC
Robert Pattinson as REY
Scoot McNairy as HENRY
Twanda Manyimo as CALEB
David Field as ARCHIE
Directed by: David Michôd
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
There’s something about the Australian Outback that makes it a perfect setting for a post-apocalyptic movie. Director David Michôd uses the arid, desolate landscape to contemplate the loss of humanity in his own version of the end of the world with “The Rover.”
Taking place after the collapse of the Australian government, “The Rover” follows a man named Eric (Guy Pearce) whose car is stolen by a group of men. This sends him on a relentless, violent quest to reclaim his vehicle. Along the way, he runs into Rey (Robert Pattinson), the brother of one of the men who stole the car. At first, Eric forces Rey to help him retrieve his car, but soon they develop an unlikely bond.
“The Rover” is more than just the darkest timeline version of “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” It’s an examination of the human condition. Like similar films such as “Mad Max” and “The Road,” the exact cause of the collapse is left unsaid, and we’re left to deal with the harsh consequences to the people left behind.
Let’s not mince words: the is a grim movie. It is violent and dire, showing the seedy and grimy underbelly of humanity. Holding itself as a mirror to the world, “The Rover” looks at what people lose in desperate situations. Sometimes they cling to something that makes them more human. Unfortunately, more often than not, we see people clinging to parts of ourselves that make us monsters.
Like the previously-mentioned post-apocalyptic road movies, “The Rover” sets its characters in a location that lends itself to the environment of the story, but it also is set in a place that is far from anarchy. One only needs to watch the news to see that some regions of the world have devolved into these deplorable conditions, but as we sit safe in our homes far away from those situations, we find it hard to relate.
However, films like these brazenly put these conditions within our comfort zone. Movies like “The Rover” force us to consider what would happen to our own civilization if things collapsed around us. We are forced to ponder what we would do and what elements of humanity – or inhumanity – we would cling to.
Guy Pearce carries the brunt of the film, book-ending the movie with strong character moments and a very subtle performance. He is balanced by Robert Pattinson, who doesn’t give nearly as strong of a performance. This is probably because Pearce has proved his acting chops time and again, and “The Rover” gives him a chance to display his raw power on the screen. Conversely, Pattinson still hasn’t convinced me he’s a good actor, and he continues to try to break free not just of his image left by years in the “Twilight” franchise, but also by years of acting tutelage of the same franchise, which features some of the worst performances you’ll see in a modern movie.
In the end, Pattinson is passable, but it’s Pearce who shines and keeps the film going.
Ultimately, “The Rover” is a different film that gives you an alternate take on speculative fiction. Like many of the other releases from A24 this year – including “Enemy” and “Under the Skin” – “The Rover” is a film that’s worth seeing mostly because it’s different than much of the other options out there.