The Rover

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DIR/WRI: David Michô 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.

 

James Bartlett

16 (See IFCO for details)
102 mins

The Rover is released on 15th August 2014

The Rover  – Official Website

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChM2icbWo9w

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Cinema Review: Non-Stop

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DIR: Jaume Collet-Serra • WRI: John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach • Ryan Engle PRO: Alex Heineman, Andrew Rona, Joel Silver • DOP: Flavio Martínez Labiano • ED: Jim May • MUS: John Ottman • DES: Alec Hammond  • CAST: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, Lupita Nyong’o

 

In Non-Stop, Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks, an Irish-American air marshal with a dark past and a drinking problem. (Standard – one wonders if it’s possible to get a career in the defensive forces without a tragic history.) While on board a long-haul New York/London flight, he receives a series of taunting texts from a mysterious stranger threatening to murder a passenger every 20 minutes unless $150 million is deposited in a bank account. His aggressive approach to preventing this puts him at odds with the passengers, crew, and TSA; and when the bank account is revealed to be in his own name, Marks is branded a hijacker. Stripped of his badge and gun (‘duty-free’?) and unsure who to trust, Marks must clear his name and get the passengers back on side before the real threat comes to an explosive climax.

Certain stylistic features of this film work very well. The appearance of speech bubbles on screen to show a text message is a device becoming popular since its use in such television series as Sherlock and House of Cards. Director Jaume Collet-Serra takes this further, projecting the flickering screen of a shattered phone and highlighted auto-fills as Marks types (though unfortunately for the film’s humour content, no auto-correct slip-ups), validating the use of text messages as a form of narrative delivery within a film. Similarly, the claustrophobic setting of the plane is well-captured – probably no doubt helped by Neeson’s hulking frame dominating the tiny space.

The film deals in some potentially rich themes here, too, with the gradual turn against Marks by everyone else involved with the flight. The difference between a state of hijacking and a state of emergency, and the threat to civil liberties through deference and compliance to perceived authority, is ripe for exploration. Unfortunately it’s treated with all the intelligence and subtlety as a fire extinguisher to the back of the head.

In terms of its plot, it would be unfair to call Non-Stop a Non-Starter – the initial premise is intriguing, menacing, and vaguely Hitchcockian in its ambitions. Call it ‘Strangers on a Plane.’ Yet somewhere along the line the low-key approach is completely abandoned in favour of toilet-based kung-fu, a sophisticated bomb concealed in cocaine, and television news channels streaming live onboard, asking of possible-hijacker Marks, ‘how do we know he’s NOT IRA?’ A certain suspension of disbelief is always required with any action caper, but halfway through it seems that the film is aware of this audience pre-disposition and shamelessly takes advantage.

With that in mind, those who enjoy Neeson’s latter-day action movie superstar mode will doubtless find much to enjoy here, with a number of well-choreographed fight scenes at 30,000 feet causing plenty of turbulence. Neeson is a great action star – his broad build, stern Roman features, and emotional range are perfectly suited to this genre. Along with fighting three men at once, he acts the hell out of looking at a phone, and has great chemistry with co-star Julianne Moore. He may be trying to save 150 people on board the plane, but Non-Stop takes a narrative nosedive in its third act that not even Liam Neeson can put right. The resolution to the whodunnit feels like a cheat, as does the motivation given for compromising the plane. The descent into cliché gathers so much speed that it crashes horribly close to parody; and the cheerful Hollywood ending fails to reconcile a number of loose ends about Marks’ no-doubt partially-disturbed mental state that doesn’t convince me he’ll come out the other side of this journey any better off. (Especially considering current exchange rates.)

A great mystery it’s not, and the frenzied, preposterous conclusion might be more ‘non, stop’ than ‘non-stop,’ but fans of Liam Neeson hunting, finding, and killing his man will certainly get more than enough of that. Fasten your seat-belts, it’s a bumpy ride.

Stacy Grouden

12A (See IFCO for details)
106  mins

Non-Stop is released on 28th February 2014

Non-Stop – Official Website

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