Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Rover

We meet a man. A still and detached man, emotionally and physically isolated. Shortly after meeting this man, his car, which appears to be his only possession, is stolen. So he gives chase, searching tirelessly for his automobile. But this is no ordinary chase. There are no cell phones, internet searches or police presence to help with the hunt. Why? Because David Michôd’s The Rover exists in a world 10 years “after the collapse,” as an introductory title card informs us. So throughout the film, we watch as a man (Guy Pearce) makes his way through a barren Australian wasteland, all in an effort to retrieve what is his.

He meets people along the way, namely Rey (Robert Pattinson), the simple-minded brother of the thief who stole the car in question. Together, Rey and The Man set off to discover many things. The location of the car, chiefly, but also the purpose (if any) for continuing to live in such a godforsaken world. That’s the first 10 minutes of the movie, and that’s as much as I’m comfortable disclosing. The brilliance of The Rover, both in its simple plot and controlled execution, deserves to be discovered in front of the largest screen possible, not in print.
Shot by Natasha Braier, the film has an organic look that shuns visual effects and wisely lets the setting speak for itself. The dirty, dry, and blistering days are juxtaposed with the cold and ominous nights. Through stark visuals, sparse and atmospheric sound design, and impeccable acting, the threat of danger lurks in every frame of the film. Much like Michôd’s first feature, the masterful crime drama, Animal Kingdom, you never know what the hell to expect in The Rover.

Most action films (and horror films, for that matter) are based on the model of action, break, build up, action, break, repeat. Those post-action breaks release the tension the movie has worked hard to create. This is why modern genre films rarely have an impact on me. They’re too formulaic in their delivery of thrills, consistently going for the quick shock, rather than the lasting suspense.

After a scene of violence occurs in The Rover, the tension does not break. Not for a moment. Despite the film’s purposeful pacing, there is never a release, even if the characters think there is. You never know what’s coming and where the film will go. The resulting tension amounts to a film that literally kept me on the edge of my seat for every minute of its duration. There certainly aren’t too many films I can say that about, and of the ones I can, The Rover ranks with the best of them.
Robert Pattinson’s efforts to break away from the shadow of the dismal Twilight franchise have been feeble at best. He has received faint-to-occasionally-ecstatic praise for his work in Water for Elephants, Bel Ami and Cosmopolis, but not from me. Thankfully, his work in The Rover is a true revelation. His Rey is angry, confused, and utterly fascinating. There’s a scene late in the film in which Rey (who clearly suffers from a mental disability) tries to articulate a question, but can’t get the words out, at least not in the right order. He repeats the sentence two, three, four times, tripping up with each utterance. There’s a self-aware frustration in Rey’s face that makes it clear that he knows he’s unintelligent. In this moment, I knew I would be confident using the words “great” and “Robert Pattinson” in the same sentence. For that is exactly what he is in this film.

Guy Pearce is one of the finest actors of his or any generation, with a command of the craft that is otherworldly. His character in The Rover is not a likeable man. Of the little emotion he shows, he conveys an angst that risks not being half as compelling as it actually is. That’s the mark of such a skilled actor: they elevate the material by absorbing themselves in it. It’s Pearce’s best performance since his nuanced work in Animal Kingdom, or, perhaps, his ferocious turn in The Proposition. I never once dared to take my eyes off him.

The Rover is, and will remain, one of the very best films of 2014. It’s a rare contemporary film that makes room for time, while also setting itself up for thrilling, unexpected moments of conflict. It’s a marvel of a movie, flawlessly designed and impeccably structured; proof that great, modern filmmaking is alive and well and, as always, waiting to be discovered. A

28 comments:

  1. I hope to see this as I did enjoy Animal Kingdom. I hope this one is just as good as I would like to see if Robert Pattinson does have potential to be good and break away from being the pussy-vampire.

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    1. I'm gonna call it now and say that you're going to love this one. It's a great, great film and Pattinson is terrific in it. Hell man, I can't wait to see it again.

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  2. I just saw Hustle And Flow and it is a shame Taryn Manning did not get nominated for an Oscar

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    1. Random as this comment may be, I can't say I disagree with you. I love that film.

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  3. Great review! I am really excited for this movie, as Animal Kingdom was brilliant. I also like the direction that both Pattinson and Stewart (who I hear is best in show in Clouds of Sils Maria) are taking with their careers. And it's always great to see Guy Pearce, what an underrated actor!

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    1. Thanks! Animal Kingdom is one of my favorite films from the past decade, and The Rover is such a worth follow-up. I've always rooted for Pattinson and Stewart. He is great here, and I'm very curious for Clouds of Sils Maria as well.

      Oh and Pearce... god, I just love that guy.

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  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed this as much as I did! I knew from Cosmopolis that Pattinson could bring something to a role (even though I know you really don't like that film) but I totally agree with your sentiments that he is a revelation here. There have been many actors who have played the bumbling sidekick, the not-all-there partner, or just "the slow one" before, but I can't think of another time where I have seen an actor bring with them a sense of pathos and understated longing to this type of a character. Also, someone give Mr. Pearce his Oscar because he's deserved it for a long, LONG time now and some of us are just waiting for the Academy to catch on with what we knew all along! It's a great film that I'm right with you on, it's gonna be one of the year's best without a doubt.

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    1. You're so right about Pattinson. His character is one we've all seen before, but there was an awareness to him here that made his work haunting. Even when he moved himself up against that tree in his first scene. He was looking around like a scared shitless dog, wondering with his eyes, "Wait, what has happened? What the fuck do I do?"

      If I had my way, Pearce would have at least two Oscars at this point. The man is flawless, in everything.

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  5. Great review man. But cosmopolis is just THE movie of our time

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Now, what I'll say about Cosmopolis is that, although the film was not for me, I have had some great debates about it since its release. So that's got to stand for something.

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  6. I loved Animal Kingdom, so I'm really excited for this. Your review has me all the more anxious to get my hands on it!

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    1. It's so good man. Highly recommended for any fan of the great Animal Kingdom.

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  7. Beautiful review! It sounds like this one is worth seeing in the theater.

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    1. Thanks! I highly recommend seeing this one in the theater if you can. It will definitely add to the overall experience.

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  8. great review! So happy you liked Robert in this, even though you weren't a fan of his earlier. So excited to see this one. Maybe an Oscar nomination?

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    1. Thanks! I really don't hold an actor's previous performances against them. When I see a new movie, I give every performer (and filmmaker) a clean slate. So yeah, I have no problem saying that Pattinson is terrific in this film. An Oscar nomination is doubtful though. The movie might be a tad too small, and Pattinson might have more to prove with Oscar voters than just one universally praised role. But hell, who knows. I'm very interested to see what he does in Maps to the Stars, by the way.

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    2. I see. great insight, thanks! Im excited for Maps to the Stars too. What about awards attention for that one?

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    3. I hear Julianne Moore gives an insane and brilliant performance in it, so, if she's aggressive enough come award's season (which she never is, by choice), then it could be hers. Her Best Actress award at Cannes helps too.

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  9. Wow this sounds great, a little bit like The Road? Except for tension :) I liked The Road but wow it was difficult to sit through that one. I always thought Pattinson had potential, he was lovely in Water for Elephants and I respect him for starring in such risky, difficult projects.

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    1. I might have made this one kind of sound like The Road, but trust me, it is VERY different. I loved that book, but the film didn't do it for me. Too dreary and dull. The Rover exists in a world where people aren't necessarily fighting (or killing, or raping) each other like they are in The Road. There's an order among the chaos, which I found to be refreshing. I'd be very interested to hear your take on it!

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  10. I'm a fan of Animal Kingdom, and I'm dying to see this! Glad to hear that Pattinson delivers and Pearce continues to impress. I won't get to see this before I do my 2014 Halfway CinSpec post later this week, but I'm really looking forward to it.

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    1. I think you'll really like it. It's patient and smart and thrilling. Looking forward to the Halfway CinSpec post!

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  11. I have my problems with this film, but Guy Pearce is a goddamn virtuoso at human emotion. That shot--and you know the one Alex--of him sitting on the bed, staring. Tells you everything you need to know and more about his character, and I could have watched it for hours.

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    1. Yes! That shot was remarkable. In just a few minutes, the character completely changed for me. We were allowed a window into his soul, and it was remarkable.

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  12. Good movie, but the title should've been Sad Max.

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    1. hahaha! This comment made me laugh out loud. Hilarious. Who knows... movie might have been more popular if it was called that.

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  13. Oh wow, excellent review! Pattinson has been making some excellent career choices lately and I have a lot of respect for him.
    I enjoyed the trailer, so I'll be checking this out when it comes out in my area.

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    1. Thanks buddy! I really hope you like this one. It's patient but so thrilling. And Pattinson is great in it.

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