Saturday, June 21, 2014

"The Rover" review

THE ROVER (2014)
Written & Directed by
David Michod

Starring Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson and
Scoot Mcnairy

I recently saw The Rover on opening night on June 13th at the Landmark Cinema and need I remind you, it was my most anticipated of the year. More than Inherent Vice and Foxcatcher even. I've been a big supporter of Michod ever since I was first saw Animal Kingdom at Sundance 2010 and saw him speak. No one knew who he was. We all just knew Animal Kingdom was something special. Then after a couple years, I started following Blue Tongue Films, a Youtube filmmaking collective in which David Michod is a key member of.

They've put out some excellent short films varying from over the top action to slow burning drama. Michod's work fits in the slow burning drama category with his creepy, menacing coming of age short film entitled Crossbow which centered around a young boy observing a troubled family that lives next door. It was a bit strange and off with the storytelling, but that didn't matter to me. The tone and atmosphere Michod created was enough.

Now when I first saw the teaser for The Rover, I was blown away. It was exactly what I wanted it to look and feel like. Then when I saw the full trailer, I wasn't as impressed with it as I was with the teaser, but after multiple viewings, I grew to love it just as much. Then after that, I stopped watching anything else they posted. I wanted to keep as hidden from the film as possible before I saw it in full.

On to the film. The Rover centers on a very simple concept involving an ex-soldier named Eric (Guy Pearce) living in the Outback, ten years after the collapse of society who's only prized possession, his car, is taken from him by a trio of gang members after a botched robbery, which we do not see. The gang left behind one of the member's brothers named Rey (played by Robert Pattinson) who is forced by Eric to guide him across the desert to find his car.

On the surface, the story's very simplistic and just about a man trying to find his car. But being a David Michod film, there's clearly much more to it, underneath. The film is filled with subtext and menace all throughout and is always aware of the kind of film it is.

I didn't love The Rover, but I liked it a whole lot. It's certainly a different film than Animal Kingdom. What I liked about what Michod did, is that he clearly wasn't trying to top himself with The Rover. In fact, this is his first film in four years. Most early directors do something small as their first, then something big shortly after as their sophomore film. Or even do a Hollywood studio film as their sophomore, then fail miserably (i.e. Neil Blomkamp with Elysium).

What David Michod did so intelligently is he waited, and took one step at a time. So when he was ready to make his second feature, he could control it. And control he did. Never for a second does The Rover lose its way. It always remains in its slow, menacing self. It's a film that creeps up on you. A film that's its own beast. Unlike any film of this nature you've seen before. The sound design (brilliantly done by Sam Petty), cinematography and music all do an amazing job supporting the film's story which there is very little of.

However, despite all the great technical aspects about the film, the true standouts are the two leads, Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. Pearce doing what he does best, playing that quiet man with so much buried underneath his eyes and so much explosive emotion struggling to burst out any second. And Pattinson in a star making performance playing a simple minded redneck thinking he's tougher than he really is.

Overall, The Rover is a strong, solid film that I'd highly recommend and as of now is one of my favorite films of 2014. It's more of an experience than anything. It's more than just a film. It's one of those films in which when the credits roll, you ask yourself, 'What did I just watch?' Which can be a good or bad thing. In this case, for me, it was a very, very good thing.

Bravo Mr. Michod. You continue to impress me and you are now on my radar for every film you direct.