The parched outback saps all the juice from their hearts. In The Rover, David Michôd’s Aussie western that opens this week, two men traverse a lawless wasteland looking for a stolen car and maybe for the last shreds of empathy. Something bad has happened — to the world and its population. The film blithely leaves out any explanation, but we gather that it was some sort of financial apocalypse that reduces Australia to an expanse of sand-blustering wilderness. The collapse renders the local currency useless (only the US dollar is accepted) and pushes men either towards stupor or barbarism.
One of the most promising Aussie directors, Michôd draws from his predecessors to arrive at a vision of the soulless outback. We’re reminded of Mad Max for the band of dusty desperados and mucky violence, and from the intense, ruthless neo-Western of John Hillcoat’s The Proposition. But The Rover also aspires to go beyond the sad allure of physical wretchedness into some sort of meditative reflection — the terrain of Peter Weir’s Picnic At Hanging Rock — to chart a cerebral trip of the characters who roam the vast and inhuman geography. An isolated country/continent, Australia has given its filmmakers a sense of physical giganticism that’s both stunning and scary. As in many other films from there, The Rover is a story about hard men driven harder by their surroundings, as they try to discover if their softer side is still alive within.
Michôd pulls it off, to an extent, and the credit goes to the eerie dynamics of the two leads. Guy Pearce plays Eric, a man with an unknown past — every past is unknown here — whose car is stolen by three armed men when the film opens. Robert Pattinson then proves that, after all, there’s life after Twilight, a better, less embarrassing life. He plays Rey, a half-autistic, half-stammering younger brother of one of the car thieves. When Eric finds Rey beaten to a pulp and left to die on the side of the road — Pattinson’s smashed-up face is part of his new persona — he forces the young man to take him to the hiding place of those who took his car.
This article is older than 60 days, which we reserve for our premium members only.You can subscribe to our premium member subscription, here.