The Rover is the sort of movie that I have seen people describe as the kind of movie that “movie people” like to make them feel good about themselves. I am not exactly sure what that means, but I suspect it is meant in a negative way, I guess a movie that is not spelled out and explained is a bad thing. I am not exactly the brightest guy when it comes to understanding movies, but to think a movie like this is a bad thing just boggles my already addled mind.
The movie was co-written and directed by David Michod (co-writer of Hesher) and is an immediately intriguing modern Australian-Western that also seems to cross some lines with Ozploitation (unfamiliar? Check out the documentary Not Quite Hollywood). Also involved with the film's creation is Joel Edgerton, probably best known as an actor, having appeared movies like Warrior and The Thing (2011). What they have crafted here is an involving look at how people's lives can be changed and affected by chance meetings, how a simple event can lead to something wholly unexpected.
As the movie begins we see Eric (Guy Pearce) getting out of his car and going into what I guess is a bar for a drink. Oh yes, the tale is set ten years after a collapse of everything. The country is a shambles, there is no law, military patrol but are not offering much protection, people steal what they need, everyone carries guns, and it is about as bleak and unforgiving as you can get. With that out of the way, and with Eric having a drink, we switch scenes to a trio of shot up criminals on the run after a shootout with the military.
These guys are arguing amongst themselves and wreck their truck. They get out, see Eric's car and steal it. An upset Eric gets in their believed busted truck and takes after them. After a bit of a chase, he catches up to them and asks for his car back. Of course, he is rebuffed, otherwise this would have been a really short movie. Anyway, they get the drop and take off. Despite this, Eric is not giving up, he wants his car back and he is not going to stop.
Along the way, Eric has a chance encounter with Rey (Rob Pattinson). Rey is another member of our burglar group, and a brother to one. He is also a little to the simple side. Why isn't he with the others? Well, he was shot and left for dead by his brother. Eric sees this as an opportunity to track down his car, and has no other use for Rey. What follows are a series of events that get closer to Eric's car, but also a little more about or duo. This is no buddy movie, nor is it easily explained, but it is certainly involving.
The Rover is a movie that is about as grim as they come. This movie is not about having a good time, it is not about a character revealing themselves in dialogue. It is not about a happy ending or exploratory flashbacks. It is a man with nothing left to lose trying to get back that one thing for reasons he does not need to explain to anyone. It is a fascinating excursion across a bleak, dusty landscape where there is no hope left. People just barely survive.
Guy Pearce has this character nailed. He is captivating, no nonsense, borderline bad guy. He is grizzled, worn down, and has very little left to give. Still, there is a spark underneath that does hint at something more, it is barely noticeable, but it is there. Then there is Robert Pattinson, an actor who thankfully seems to have more to offer as he seeks to distance himself from the Twilight series and that sparkly vampire. He gives a solid character performance here that serves the film and not any actorly conceits. He is a little twitchy, certainly off, but is never showy. It is work that serves the purpose of the film rather than a lookatme sort of thing.
The Rover is an intense film that is about very little, but has a lot of content. The one movie that lept to mind as I watched was Wake in Fright, another story set in the Outback that uses the setting as a character of its own and tells the tale of a man surviving events that happen to him. In any case, this is a movie that is beautifully shot and has a lot to offer. You could also look at is as the movie where all the protagonist want is his car. Brilliant.