The Rover (2014)
Editor’s Note: The Rover opens this Friday, June 13th.
Written and directed by David Michôd, The Rover played as part of the Midnight Screening in Cannes. The drama, starring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson as the main leads, is set in dystopian Australia, when western civilization has failed and crime is of daily occurrence.
The dusty and empty wilderness is the perfect location for a dystopian film like Michód’s as it reflects the intended atmosphere without trying too hard.
The story is structured around Eric (Guy Pearce), a tough and moody character with nothing to lose. His only remaining valuable possession is his car. When it gets stolen by a group of criminals, Eric chases down the thieves and ends up taking in an injured young man named Rey (Robert Pattinson) who is none other than the brother of one of the criminals (Scoot McNairy). He was left behind after a shootout with the remaining authorities. In order to find his car, Eric takes in Rey and forces him to lead him to his brother’s hide-out spot. Eric’s new companion seems to be quite naïve, simple-minded but also innocent because of these attributes. The two opposing characters slowly get more familiar with each other which can be referred to the Australian myth of mateship. Highlighted by egalitarianism and loyalty, the myth developed during rough times when men had to help out each other in order to survive the harsh conditions of the outback and can therefore be transferred to The Rover.
The journey motivated by revenge turns into a roadtrip through the deserted Australian outback. With wide shots of the lonely streets surrounded by the rough scenery, the camera catches the massive and powerful character of the desert as well as the loneliness and isolation it represents. The two protagonists find themselves in a no-man’s land where rules of a civilized society don’t apply anymore but is marked by anarchy and disorder instead of law and order. The dusty and empty wilderness is the perfect location for a dystopian film like Michód’s as it reflects the intended atmosphere without trying too hard.
The Rover is dominated by long shots with few dialogue, adding to the general mood of the film. It concentrates on the visuals, especially since the scenery reflects the brutal and tense circumstances during this apocalyptical time. There is only one rare, light scene in which Pattinson’s character Rey sings along to a pop-song while sitting in the car. The lyrics – “don’t hit me ‘cause I’m beautiful” – made the audience laugh at least once during the mostly heavy, dark and violent drama.
Though thematically similar to Mad Max, another Australian dystopian roadmovie, The Rover is an interesting take on a future dystopia with compelling performances by Pearce and Pattinson, with the latter succeeding in getting rid of his Twilight-image.