By Matt Passantino
In 2010, film-going audiences were introduced to director David Michod with Animal Kingdom. The film immersed American viewers in the talents of Jacki Weaver and Ben Mendelsohn, but also it also brought to light a new director with a keen sense of tension.
Like Animal Kingdom, The Rover is a slow-burn film, one that requires audiences’ patience in arriving at an outcome. Thankfully, Michod always makes the wait worthwhile.
Set in post-apocalyptic Australia - referred to as “the collapse” in the opening title card - The Rover establishes the tone of the film right from the beginning. Everything is quiet and empty, with only a few people to be seen. Eric (Guy Pearce) checks into a dilapidated building for some water. While he is in there, three men (Tawanda Manyimo, Scoot McNairy and David Field) steal his car. Eric witnesses the theft but does not make it outside in time to stop them.
Hell-bent on retrieving his car, Eric embarks on an odyssey to find the three men. During his journey, Eric crosses paths with Rey (Robert Pattinson), the simple-minded brother of one of the thieves. Eric brings Rey with him, hoping Rey can lead him to his automobile. During the journey, the dynamic between Eric and Rey shifts from captor-captive to an alliance as we find out more about Rey.
Michod’s success resides in his patience. One of the most challenging aspects of making a movie is to find the perfect balance of telling a complete story while trying to sustain audience attention. The Rover’s pacing is deliberate, but also truly suspenseful. Even when you know Eric will stop at nothing to find the three men who stole his car, Michod continually dials up the tension.
Fierce performances and Michod’s visual style make The Rover a film worth seeing.