The Rover [2014]

The-Rover-posterDirected By David Michod. Written by David Michod, Joel Edgerton

A man has lost everything; one begins to wonder why he bothers to keep himself alive in this post-apocalyptic Australian outback. It is a stripped-out world that abandoned him long ago. He has no empathy for others, he cares for no one and nobody cares for him. This ruthless personality of Guy Pearce’s character (Eric) is introduced and gradually expanded upon; both through the tight, somewhat sparse but efficient script; and the many extended scenes of deafening silence with his face on screen. Most of the movie’s scenes feature Pearce and while he doesn’t say a lot, his face sure does. His behavior says even more. The silence is all the more unsettling thanks to the score, which stabs into the movie without warning. The score is much like the raw violence in that sense; it isn’t always there, but when it comes it is unexpected and brutal.

Rey is an equally interesting character for a completely different set of reasons: a simpleton from the United States who has been abandoned in this dog-eat-dog world, left for dead by his brother, and after his meeting with Eric, his convictions begin to take the form of a pendulum as he becomes more unsure about the world around him and the people that still populate it, especially those he calls family and friends. Both actors were amazing. Their characters relationship and their emotions become more complex as the films moves on.

This movie is a fascinating character study, where Pearce’s character comes into contact with Rey – left bloody and abandoned by his brother and their gang after a firefight. Fleeing the scene, the gang happen to pass Pearce as they roll and total their pick-up truck. They of course proceed to steal the only thing this man has left; and the simple question becomes: how far will he go to get his car back? The scene following this car-jacking was an extremely tense moment; and that overwhelming element of tension did not let up until the final minute.

As Eric and Rey broker a deal that can help them both, their tense relationship begins, ebbing and flowing dramatically in many unexpected ways as the movie unfolds. Many concepts are explored: what a world such as this can do to a man; his trust, faith, family, his concept of relationships, his will to live or to care about other life. The relationship that develops between Rey and Eric becomes more involved and complex after Eric takes it upon himself to bluntly explain to the simple Rey his incredibly bleak outlook on his life, and on Rey’s predicament in particular. In fact, this is more a character/relationship study than a ‘post-apocalyptic’ movie, which really pigeon-holes it. There is a reason the ‘collapse’ is never fully explored, and the world that has been created seems to be on the brink of another disaster.

The movie is visually stunning. Whether it is the incredible terrain of South Australia and the Flinder’s ranges climbing as far as the eye can see, or the scenes of tense silence between characters that lingers; yet without a word, they are both saying so much. The world that is created in THE ROVER is beautifully realised in a brutal, visceral and violent way. The entire movie feels incredibly well-made, by international standards. Another gem from David Michod. This year has been kind to Australian film.