Cinematic Releases: The Rover

The Rover hits theaters today. Find out what we thought in Greg's spoiler free review.

"The first shot is for Twilight.
The second is for Kristen Stewart.
And the third is for...well....
Twilight again."

In bleakness, there is always the possibility of becoming mundane. That is always the worst fear I have when entering a film that is dark and gritty. It imposes a fear of nothing happening with an overtone of depression. I always hope that the bleakness serves a purpose, a reason everything should be gritty, why the characters look so downcast, and a point for my misery.

In The Rover, David Michôd’s followup to the acclaimed 2010 crime drama Animal Kingdom, he finds that reason, that point, that why, and crafts a film that sucks you in for its 102 minute run time, throws you to the ground, kicks you out, and makes you want to experience it all over again.

The premise is as straight forward as a premise can be: Eric lives in Australia ten years after the "collapse", some sort of economic breakdown that is not elaborated upon, and his only possession of consequence is a car. The film uses an ultra-simple plot that never gets in the way of crafting complex characters with similarly complex motivations. Eric, portrayed excellently by Guy Pearce, is a man of few words who has committed horrible crimes in his past. He has grown numb to this world he now lives in which sets off the chain of events that carry the story.
"Is this the place for
The Walking Dead auditions?"
I personally thought Robert Pattinson’s performance in Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis was the performance of 2012. As he branches off into a different type of character in The Rover, he is just as good. His character feels the empathy Eric does not, supplying the audience with an emotional connection to the characters. While bumbling and seeming like he may be the one-note southern hick we expect, he is far more human than I thought possible. He is a little silly, clever at times, and completely loyal to the man who once saved his life and is willing to go anywhere for him.

The content of the film is filled to the brink with nihilism, violence, and sorrow, but Michôd never drowns in it. He shoots with DP Natasha Braier in a matter-of-fact way, showing every snippet of action in a brief and brutal way. The sound, which is a technical achievement, juxtaposes long, stressful periods of silence with gunshots that chill the bones of every audience member. It also seems to affect the characters. Eric says after an accidental death, “You should remember the lives you take. It’s the price you pay for taking them.” It is quite clear that he has taken many after the ‘collapse,’ and his drained expression shows the internal battle he has faced, and that price he has paid.

"I'm just angry.
Dingoes ate my baby!!!"
Thematically, Michôd has explored several topics I am still just scratching the surface at. There are those of loyalty and servitude, the ruler’s view of that loyalty, the idea of violence and its motivations, which I touched upon above, along with existential purpose. Eric talks to a man guarding him about things he has done and lack of repercussions and wonders what purpose anything has in that world he lives in. Rey says, “It doesn’t always have to be about something,” which isn’t commentary on the film itself, rather about the world they’re living in and the currrent world we’re experiencing now. Does our existence have to have some meaning? Does there have to be something driving us to do the things we do? The Rover sets out to answer that question, and the answer it gives is far more fascinating than a simple “Yes” or “No” could ever be.

The response to this film has become, sadly, mixed. People seem to be frustrated at the simplicity of the plot, how it drifts around, and how little happens. It’s unfortunate, really, because the plot serves the many complex themes and ideas the film masterfully brings about. They are missing out on what is easily one of the best films of this year and decade.

-Greg Dinskisk