Set in Australia, 10 years after an unspecified disaster, The Rover follows an unnamed man (Guy Pearce) who is on a mission to get his car back from the three men who stole it from him. Along the way he enlists the reluctant help of a dopey American (Robert Pattinson), whose brother is amongst the thieves.
It occurred to me when watching this film that it must be very easy to write a post-apocalyptic movie. They’re all pretty much the same. Characters go from place to place stealing, getting in Mexican stand-offs and killing. It doesn’t really matter who lives or dies in the end, and we’re all left feeling that life is pretty empty and pointless. What makes them distinct from one another is, I suppose, the way they’re made; the characters, the acting, the cinematography and the music.
Well here we’re treated to Guy Pearce acting in his native Australian, something I’m not sure I’ve seen since Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. In fact, with Pearce roaming around the outback, this is something like Priscilla meets The Road. Australia’s answer to Viggo Mortensen, Pearce has a solemn and brooding presence on his increasingly gnarly face. The character he plays is a merciless anti-hero. In fact, he’s the most anti hero you can be without being full-on, Dracula-level villain. He’s matched in his skills by the younger Robert Pattinson, who perfects the slurring speech of this dim-witted imbecile. In his stupidity he’s actually one of the more sympathetic characters in the film, as he seems less deliberately bad than generally foolish and weak-willed.
The cinematography is impressive, with the Australian desert proving once again to be a stunning setting for a film. Whichever direction you point a camera in there’s a stunning view, usually with a rusty barn covered in blood and bits of brain in the foreground. I’m not sure if that’s Australia in general or just this film. I’ve never been there.
The music is a series of agonising discords, stretched to breaking point until they are ringing in your ears, coupled with a clever use of silence. The screenplay isn’t the most original, nor the characters the most memorable, but it does cleverly edge in the occasional moment of humour while losing none of its bleakness. This is a world of intolerable misery, cruelty, self-interest, pain and suffering, which is accurately represented in the film.
This film’s biggest failing is it’s thoroughly unsatisfying ending, but I can’t say any more about that here. You’ll have to see it and be unsatisfied for yourself. But on balance this is a solid post-apocalyptic action-drama, bolstered by its fresh location and strong performances.