10 years after the global economic collapse, Eric’s (Guy Pearce) car is stolen. As he peruses the thieves through the Australian outback, Eric meets Rey (Robert Pattinson), a young man who just so happens to be one of the thieves’ brothers. The two form a bond of necessity as Eric vows to track down his car and Rey wants to get home.
Say what you want about Twilight, but at least, in his career since the franchise ended, Robert Pattinson is making decent career choices. Admittedly, these career choices don’t always pay off for him, but it proves that the actor is willing to take chances. Director David Michod’s first film Animal Kingdom was hugely well received, and this time the director turns his attentions to a post apocalyptic world, where the only things that matter are the things, and people, we put value on.
Guy Pearce takes on the lead role, of the stoic loner with a dark past. Pearce shows his skill as an actor through the little the character speaks, instead allowing his body language and energy to tell his story. Robert Pattinson takes on a touchy role as the mentally disabled young man who has been dragged into a life of crime by his brother. Playing someone who, essentially, comes across as childlike and stunted is always a risk, and Pattinson manages well for the most part, but there are times where it seems like he is acting, rather than inhabiting the character. Perhaps self-consciousness is to blame, but whatever the reason, these slops of character are jarring.
Michod’s screenplay, co-written with Animal Kingdom star Joel Edgerton, plays like an Australian Western. The Western is a notoriously difficult genre to tackle, but the screenplay adds elements of world decay in an unfamiliar manner, by setting the film in a barren wasteland, as opposed to the overcrowded cities we so often see in dystopian futures.
As director, Michod often allows the pacing of the film to slip, leaving the audience wondering whether these two characters are actually going anywhere, or if they are simply on a never-ending car ride. The cinematography enhances the ghostly feeling of the film, and the soundtrack jars against this creating an interesting dissonance, but The Rover suffers, as it is not quite as great as the sum of its parts.
The Rover is an interesting look at the future, and the value we, as people, put on people and possessions. Pearce reminds us of his strengths as an actor, but Pattinson suffers slightly from allowing his performance to alternate between caricature and self-consciousness. There is a lesson about life to be learned here, but with messy pacing and both too much and too little going on, by the end of the film it’s hard to remember what the lesson is.