Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Rover Zigs and Zags Through a Dangerous Wasteland: A Movie Review

Director: David Michôd.

Writers: Joel Edgerton and David Michôd.

Cast: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson and Scoot McNairy.

The Rover is the second feature from director David Michôd. This film also debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, in 2014 and Michôd's latest is set in a chaotic environment. Ten years after the global apocalypse, characters have devolved in the Australian outback. An unsettling soundtrack hopes to create even more chaos as a strange duo looks for a group of car thieves. This duo does not speed through the story, with the pacing requiring a bit of patience. Still, the characters Eric (Guy Pearce) and Rey (Robert Pattinson) keep the film enthralling. The Rover is one post-apocalyptic thriller that offers tension through its mininamlist approach to storytelling.

The film begins with one man in a rundown tavern. A car crash takes place outside and several men steal a nearby vehicle. This vehicle belongs to the man in the bar. A car chase takes place, which leaves the two groups at further odds. Still, the protagonist Eric is determined to get his vehicle back. But, why? Answers come late in the picture. Along the way, there are killings, shoot-outs and a few long dialogues, which sometimes come across as perplexing. Michôd's latest is a compelling feature, few will forget.

Though, pacing in the film is slightly drawn out. Action sequences are interspersed throughout the film. But, several scenes involve pointless dialogue or drawn out confrontations. In one scene, Eric confronts a grandmother, in a rundown shop. The grandmother, played by Gillian Jones, wants to know Eric's name. She repeats over and over again: "what is your name?" Eric is only concerned with finding the thieves and his car. This scene is perplexing. Still, the setting in the film is a strange place, filled with even weirder characters. A gun-dealing midget comes to mind. Overall, it would seem that director and writer Michôd is in no hurry to get to the film's central conflict. Instead, the film is more experiential. Characters drift in and out of the narrative and the storytelling will leave many wondering what will come next. The film will not reach its final destination anytime soon.

Another film element, the soundtrack, is unnerving. Early in the film, strange instruments grind against each other and the sounds are in disharmony. The chaotic music enhances the chaos on the screen. A gospel song appears late and much of the music fights against itself. Later, a pop song, titled "Pretty Girls Rock," comes out of nowhere and this viewer had to adjust the sound volumes just to see if the song was actually part of the film. All of the soundtrack choices are out of place and perhaps with intention. A post-apocalyptic future is not one in which people will be able to feel comfortable.

The unusual pairings continue; the character Eric and Rey are very much in contrast to each other. Eric, the protagonist, is a cold-blooded killer. He cares little for anyone. He also speaks very little. Eric comes across as a Billy Munny, from The Unforgiven (1992). He has little to say and a whole lot of killing to get to. A true sociopath, Eric is one character you would not want to meet in real life. On the other side of the coin, Robert Pattinson plays the dimwit, Rey. Rey is the brother of one of the car thieves. When Eric is silent, Rey has something to say. And, Rey's dialogues, which could easily be dismissed, also offer occassional insights. Together at a campfire, Rey tells a story of an old home and its contents, which Eric dismisses. Rey responds with: "everything does not have to mean something." This is sage advice, in a film which takes its time to unravel. Both of these characters have a tale to tell and their characterizations unfold, slowly over time.

This viewer found The Rover to be an engrossing film. Full of shady settings and even shadier characters, The Rover offers lots of tension through its unpredictability. You never know where the road in the film will take you. Thoroughly violent, this film is unsettling for its gruesome displays, but also for its sounds. The soundtrack zigs when you might expect it to zag. As well, the slow pacing allows the film to develop in a natural way. There are no forced confrontations here or plot gimmicks. Instead, the film is full of wonder and excitement as characters deal with the many threats on the road and in the nearby shantytowns. The Rover is one film that hangs on, long after the final credits have shown.

Overall: 8 out of 10 (an intriguing story with damaged characters, enough conflict, what is the protagonist's character arc?).

A trailer for the film is here:

The Rover Trailer on 28DLA

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