DIR/WRI: David Michôd • PRO: David Linde, David Michôd,Liz Watts • DOP: Natasha Braier • ED: Peter Sciberras • DES: Josephine Ford • MUS: Antony Partos • CAST: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy
In a world bereft of new Twilight films, anything that Robert Pattinson does is going to be looked at, and he couldn’t have gone further (in almost every way) in this film, which is set in a desolate, dilapidated Australia “ten years after the collapse” and begins with grubby Eric (Guy Pearce) driving across the dusty, deserted land. We don’t know where he’s going or why, but his eyes are fixed in a thousand yard stare and only just register signs of life when his car is stolen outside a lonely bar.
After revving the thieves abandoned truck out of the ditch it landed in when it crashed, he gives chase. The injured Henry (Scoot McNairy) and his two scavenger friends can’t believe it, and even when they pepper the truck with bullets and come to a halt, standing off like cowboys on the road, Eric vows that he won’t stop following them until they give his car back.
Elsewhere, a shot and bleeding Rey (Pattinson) clambers into a dying soldier’s Hummer and sets off along the road. He’s chasing after Henry too; he was a member of the gang and got left behind for dead when things went wrong.
Eric comes to and gets back into the truck, then stops at every bizarre roadside shack looking for information – and to buy a gun. Now the killing begins. Back outside, Rey appears and unwittingly asks Eric where he got Henry’s truck from; now Eric has a way to get his car back, though first he has to get Rey patched up at the house of a bush doctor (Susan Prior).
As they drive, drive, drive, Eric says little and seems to care even less, while the seemingly slow-witted Rey struggles with being left behind. Sleeping under the stars, they’re soon on the run from the army too as they make for the small town where the gang was due to lay low…
Owing a great deal to Westerns, the legacy of Mad Max – and the often-forced quirkiness of David Lynch too – this rather frustrating but compelling film is held together by excellent performances from the leads. Pearce – his shoulder hunched, his eyes looking exhausted and his mind as focused as a psychopaths – is as intense as the ruined country he now lives in, while Pattinson is a revelation, a mass of ticks and confusion as he heavy-breathes and tries to come to terms with not only his sibling betrayal, but the fact his only source of hope is a man unconcerned with humanity.
The shoot took place in sweltering and isolated spots of Australia, and it certainly did its job: you’re always itching for a shower. The countless supporting characters – many of them local people and all of them shouldering rifles – look so drawn and wild that they could easily fit into the world of JRR Tolkien.
But it’s relentlessly grim, violent stuff, and the long stretches of time when we simply follow the car or Eric sits in silence while Rey tries desperately to make a connection, the pair of them seeming like Lennie and George from Of Mice and Men, can get very tiresome.
There are some major self-serving logic problems too; it’s unbelievable that Henry’s truck is drivable after the crash we see – let alone that they leave it by the unconscious Eric after he’s just said he’d never stop chasing them – and as thieves it’s inconceivable that they wouldn’t bother to look in the boot, or at least siphon out the precious petrol.
Eric never seems to want for water or food either – though he almost seems like he doesn’t need it – and the thing that was in his car? Well, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether – and why – it was worth it all the dead bodies.
16 (See IFCO for details)
The Rover is released on 15th August 2014