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.
It's not just the economy's that's gone in this dystopia; this is a morally bankrupt future.
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.
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