THE ROVER // Post-apocalypse has become so many things in cinema. Whether it is zombies or the fallout of some catastrophe, Hollywood seems obsessed with the idea. Flooding the theaters with these films, it becomes rare for any of these them to stand out. What becomes key is subtlety. Parring down, focusing on the characters rather than the changing world around them, and “The Rover” is the prime example of how to make a post-apocalyptic film stand out. Starring Guy Pearce as Eric, we meet him pulling up to the remnants of a bar in his vehicle. It is when a Jeep flips over outside the bar and the men inside the Jeep steal Eric’s car that the film is set into motion. The men inside the Jeep have come from a shootout, where one of the men, Henry (Scoot McNairy) left his brother Reynolds (Robert Pattinson) behind, believing him to be dead. As Eric chases after these men in order to get his car back, he ends up coming across Reynolds, who turns out to be a half-wit that Eric manipulates in order to get him to rat on the location of his brother and the stolen car.
Instead of focusing on the world the world around them, director and writer David Michôd (“Animal Kingdom”) hones in on the emotions of the characters and how those relate to the new world. The audience is never quite sure how these men used to be, but now, a wild west mentality sends them on an excursion along the deserted Australian highways. Tension and a bit of mystery drive Michôd’s vision, with Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson delivering two of the very best performances of their career, with Pattinson able to break his typecast following his years of young adult adaptations; his character’s mental shortcomings working in his favor. The Australian outback lends itself as the perfect stage for a post-apocalyptic world, complete with decaying buildings and nothingness as far as the eye can see. What really expresses Michôd’s craft, however, is the punctuation at the end of the film; a subtle reveal as to why Eric goes through all the trouble of getting his car back, bringing the entire film to an emotional head. Landing the dismount of a narrative film is becoming more and more of a craft, and nailing the perfect conclusion can sometimes make an above average film appear almost perfect and “The Rover” proves this to be true, causing a giant smile and reassurance of the subtlety that makes this one of the best films of the year.
[Directed by David Michôd] [R] [103 min] [20 June 2014]