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“Fear The Man With Nothing To Lose.”
This is the tag line on the movie poster to writer/director David Michod’s The Rover, his follow-up to 2010’s critically acclaimed debut, Animal Kingdom. It indicates the dark and desperate heart at the center of Michod’s gritty future world.
The movie takes place ten years after a global economic collapse in Australia’s outback. The law ceases to exist and order has disappeared. We meet Eric (Guy Pearce), a cold-blooded drifter, whose car is stolen by a desperate gang. Eric sets off on an unwavering mission to hunt down the gang and get his car back. Along the way, he crosses paths with Rey (Robert Pattinson), badly injured and whose brother Henry (Scoot McNairy) is part of said gang. Eric takes Rey as an unwilling accomplice to complete the mission. This leads to violent and moral quandaries, which will shape the outcome of their lives.
Michod, who has only directed two movies thus far, has established himself as a talent to watch. He has a unique and clear vision that may not come together 100 percent, but whose ambition should be admired. He captures the desolate and lonely feel of a world without order. His vision of the future is bleak and uncompromising. People erupt in violent acts, in a moments notice, over the smallest of gestures. Everyone is desperate to hold onto whatever goods they may value. Michod’s use of building tension is compelling and unnerving. This is a world where hope seems like a fairy tale people tell themselves to stay alive. This is dark stuff.
The bleakness of the subject matter can feel a little draining occasionally, which is a flaw with the movie’s pacing. There were moments where the story meandered and could have been tightened or expanded upon. The relationship between Eric and Rey feels underdeveloped. Individually, they are interesting characters, but their unlikely relationship is underutilized. The script provides the bare essentials in the story, but those elements could have been taken deeper.
That being said, the actors bring a compelling nature to their roles, which keeps the movie engaging. Pattinson displays a depth and vulnerability previously untapped and delivers a strong performance. Now that he is free of the Twilight franchise, he seems eager to tackle challenging roles. Pattinson captures Rey’s naiveté and innocence, but also his stubborn and unpredictable nature. There is no trace of Edward Cullen in Rey and he is all the better for it.
Pearce is the anchor of the movie and delivers one of his finest performances. He is a man who has been stripped away by society and has nothing left to lose. The script does not provide too much information about Eric, but the fierce determination that Pearce gives to the role, holds us in riveting suspense. Pearce is such a compelling presence, that you wish he would headline most movies.
The cinematography by Natasha Braier is stark and haunting. She captures the grimy and desolate look of this world, but also the dark beauty of the outback. Another element of note is the musical score by Antony Partos and the supplemental music used. There were moments were the music was effective and other times where it felt intrusive. Overall, it was unconventional in the best manner.
Though there are flaws with the movie, which keep it from being great, with admirable creative risks taken by Michod. He has an interesting and unique perspective about where our world could be headed. This is personified with a striking visual style and a pair of compelling performances. Thanks to his talented actors, Michod takes us on a trip that captures the darkness of our possible future.