David Michod’s last feature, Animal Kingdom earned the director rave reviews and a reputation as a visionary director on the rise. In his latest feature, The Rover, (in theaters June 20) which he also wrote, Michod reteams with Guy Pearce and brings Robert Pattinson and Scoot McNairy out to play in a bleak, lawless and gritty future. 10 years after a global economic collapse our world is a place where only the hard survive. Eric (Guy Pearce), an ex-solider with a dark secret, finds himself robbed of his only possession, and subsequently begins a vengeance-drive quest through the Australian outback to recover it. Unwillingly along for the ride is Rey (Robert Pattinson), a youth who was left dead by his brother, Henry (Scoot McNairy), the same man responsible for the theft of Eric’s car.
The Rover is fascinating in both what it tells us and what it doesn’t. We know that a collapse has left the world in quite a desperate situation, but not the how or why. We see only glimpses of the new laws of man and are left to wonder what production, if any, still exists and exactly how most people pass their days. We likewise are only given the minimum of information about Eric and Rey, with moments of reveal peppering their journey as we go.
We don’t know where Eric was intending to go, nor where he came from, or what it is that compels him to risk everything to reclaim his own car when a working, if a little unsightly truck is left in the wake of the robbery. We are able to glean that Rey is mentally challenged, and no doubt traumatized by being abandoned by his brother, we never really get a sense of the depth of his struggles, nor, how, with a brother like Henry, he’s managed to remain a basically kind chap. These questions fill the mind as we watch the unlikely duo range over strange land and circumstances, and it’s only after we see the end game of their journey that we realize how effectively the unsaid and the omitted cements the gritty, alien and uncertain reality on screen.
Pattinson and Pearce both deliver mesmerizing performances that drive the film with taut suspense. The Rover feels at once wholly singular and completely familiar, Michod tackles classic themes and even circumstances in this film, but he does it in a way that somehow feels new. In a season that tends to be laden with superheroes and action stars it is a refreshing alternative to watch regular men pushed too far making choices that most of us would never want to ask ourselves if we could make in the same situation.