A dystopian future that's visually stunning but morally bankrupt
The Rover Film Review
Painting quite a disturbingly believable portrait of an economically-devastated (and morally bankrupt) future dystopia, The Rover almost does for Mad Max what Ex Machina recently did for Blade Runner.Although, at first glance, the comparisons with old ‘Max seem obvious – technically, they’re both Australian-dystopic-future-set films which feature a hardened protagonist chasing a bunch of villains who did him wrong – this low budget indie flick is actually much more interested in what the shattered future world has done to the people that live within it, rather than what they do to each other.
Guy Pearce’s seemingly detached and cold-blooded drifter is at the core of the piece, driven by a seemingly unjustifiable, and occasionally slightly demented quest which sees him cross paths with Robert Pattinson’s simple and unquestionably naive wounded man, who has ties to the people that the drifter is looking for.
Co-written by Warrior’s Joel Edgerton (recently seen in Ridley Scott’s Exodus), director (and co-writer) David Michod’s latest Australian drama has wooed festival audiences and achieved solid acclaim with its small-scale but taut tale of future desolation.Largely eschewing action, and completely absent of the grand effects you might expect from a feature like this, Michod is much more concerned with the damage done to humanity rather than humankind, which is not wholly surprising considering his character-driven canon, that includes the excellent Animal Kingdom.
At its best, The Rover makes you wonder what we would actually lose beyond material things if the economy collapsed and law and order largely dissolved into nothingness. What if we were left to nothing but our own moral compasses; how long could we survive?
Whilst some might struggle with the languid pace that seems perpetually tipped on the edge of absolute nothingness, the moral questions at the heart of the piece are explored expertly with minimalistic restraint. Michod’s understatement speaks volumes, and Pearce’s commanding presence defines the barren structure, leaving it a resonant work deserving of praise.
Blu-ray Picture QualityFor such a dystopic vision, set in the dusty, sun-baked plains of the Australian outback, The Rover still manages to impress with a precise and sometimes outright beautiful 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen.
It's no surprise to discover this was shot on film rather than digitally; just look at those sunsets.
Detail is excellent, and thoroughly unforgiving towards the sun-cracked visages of the various cast members, in particular the haggard Pearce, with every line and wrinkle visible – and those damn pesky flies buzzing around his face incessantly. The longer shots paint a surprisingly majestic, other-worldly portrait of the landscapes, and the colour scheme feels authentic throughout, obviously bending and folding to the relentless pounding of the sun overhead. Black levels aren’t quite perfect, but still mostly impress, and overall this is easily demo quality; an excellent-looking release, especially considering the budget.
Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a much more reserved offering, which often feels like it is struggling to find its own voice in all the desolation. There are some nice touches, with a few surround howls, creaking boards, and whispering wind which will make you turn your head and wonder whether it’s your living room that’s come to life, and there are a couple of more tense sequences where the soundtrack definitely does slap you around to keep your attention, but this is frequently a more contemplative, self-reflective track, revealing the deeper strands of what is, only ostensibly, a thriller. Of course the dialogue remains a strong presence in the wilderness, remaining clear and coherent throughout, and overall this is a good but far from reference track.
Blu-ray ExtrasTopping its US counterpart, this UK release boasts not only the same comprehensive 'making-of' documentary – Something Elemental: Making The Rover – which runs at three quarters of an hour and features some welcome interviews with the key players intercut with plenty of behind the scenes footages, but also a decent audio commentary by writer/director Michod, who shines a light on the themes and ideas at the core of this gem. The disc is rounded off by some preview trailers.
The Rover Blu-ray VerdictThe Rover is a bleak and surprisingly disturbing look at some of home truths when it comes to post-apocalyptic future tales; these kinds of dystopic fare are all too easily dismissed as entertaining, fictional fantasy, but films like this bring it back to reality, and focus on some of the more devastating consequences associated with such a situation.
This world isn't just economically bankrupt, it's morally bankrupt too.
This Region B-locked UK release boasts excellent video and solid audio as well as a decent selection of extras, making this a worthy release for those who like their indie gems rich and rewarding. Sure, its pace may not suit everybody, but its message comes through loud and clear, and remains resonant long after the film has ended.
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