“You should never stop thinking about a life you’ve taken. That’s the price you pay for taking it.”
In 2010 David Michod directed his first full-length feature Animal Kingdom. It was a critical success, and he went on to pick up a Best Director award with the Australian Directors’ Guild. Now Michod has completed his sophomore effort, The Rover, which does explore some familiar ground with criminal families, but the film takes a more introspective approach to life and what matters most in the world when you believe you have nothing left to lose.
Ten years after the global economic collapse, Eric (Guy Pierce) travels the Australian landscape seemingly without any purpose beyond surviving to live another day. It’s just the kind of world you would have expected the Road Warrior to have been before things got too out of hand. While Eric is at a bar and relaxing with a cool drink, we see a truck roll and flip in the background. Eric seems to be too lost in his own thoughts to care or even notice till he steps outside and watches as the guys escape from their truck and steal Eric’s truck.
Eric takes pursuit, and instead of the high speed chase you’d expect, instead we get a more methodical and determined chase. At this point you will start to question what is so special about this car, and for the world these characters exist in just about any theory you come up with at this point is a valid one. But needless to say, Eric doesn’t get his car so easily; after all, this is only the opening moments of the film.
Where the film takes a more dramatic turn is when Eric stumbles upon Rey (Robert Pattinson). Rey was left for dead by those who stole Eric’s car. It’s here where Eric discovers that Rey is the younger brother of one of the men responsible for taking his car. Eric doesn’t care about Rey’s life-threatening injuries; he wants answers. But in this unforgiving world Eric knows to get his car he needs Rey alive, so he takes him out to where he hears there is a doctor that can help them.
Rey, of course, is reluctant to help, but Eric makes it clear that his options are as limited to either help or die.
As the film progresses, the reluctance Rey has towards Eric seems to falter, and in time it seems as though he views Eric more as his kin than his actual brother. Sure, as we listen to Rey we understand he’s more than just a bit slow in the head, but what’s more clear is that he’s a soul who seems to just not belong in this unforgiving landscape. Before this film I honestly didn’t think much of Robert Pattinson, but now I can’t help but wonder what is next for this guy. This wasn’t just a solid performance by an actor, but instead this is a career-changing performance that not only will garner some awards attention to Pattinson but a role that finally allow him to step away from the shadow of the Twilight saga.
What is most striking with this film is the film’s cinematography matched with its beautifully unique score by Antony Partos. I’m quite certain I’ve never heard a score like this, and it simply works perfectly with the action on screen. Whether it is the car chase or simply a shootout, it delivers more impact than any score I’ve heard this year.
But at the end of the day, this is a film that asks the question: how far are you willing to go for what matters to you? Both Eric and Rey face death numerous times but struggle onward in their quest to reach what awaits them. This is a bloody and ruthless film that can at times be tough to watch and may have those pondering their mortality should an economic collapse really come along. This isn’t just a world of anarchy, but a world without hope, and it never pretends to be anything different. But then the end arrives and reminds us all that things are not always as they may seem.
I really enjoyed this film. It’s already a front runner in my eyes as a contender for best foreign film of the year, yet I just don’t know if this is a film I could ever get excited about watching again and again. Michod has delivered a beautiful introspective picture with some great performances by his two leads, but I’m not sure about the commercial appeal this will have for a wider audience. At the end of the day this Mad Max only overcooked in art house style.