Director David Michod makes it very clear that The Rover is a very different beast to his 2010 brilliant family crime- drama Animal Kingdom. Whereas that film was multi-layered and filled with questions about morality, The Rover is anything but, It's a stripped back, raw, compelling feature. Michod takes the Australia we've seen in films like Mad Max and has given it a social-realist edge that heightens the drama to magnificent levels.
Where Animal Kingdom was undoubtedly an ensemble picture, The Rover is a two-hander. First we have Pearces' Eric, a virtually silent loner who will stop at nothing to get his car back. Not much later we are introduced to Robert Pattinsons' Rey, a injured, erratic young man who appears to be mentally limited sometimes and shockingly cunning at others. Rey is the younger brother of one of the men who stole Eric's car, so Eric practically takes Rey hostage in order to find the location of his brother and thus they set out on their journey.
The film is shot fantastically by Natasha Braier, who manages to capture the intense beauty and brutally harsh power of the seemingly unending desert which covers the film. The music is also worthy of note, with loud distorted sounds throughout the film, giving a constant sense of impending doom. Michod brings back an element from Animal Kingdom by having an anachronistic pop song play over images of intense weirdness.
The acting in the film cannot go unnoticed, with both Pearce and Pattinson delivering the best performances of their careers. Pearce has always been impressively consistent in his career but Pattinson is the real revelation here. He delivers a performance that can be in just the space of a scene, strangely chilling and yet eerily childlike. Pearces' portrayal of Eric is superb in it's understated quality, with only two scenes in the film giving us any explanation as to why Eric is as quick to violence as he is and why he so desperately wants his car back.
Michod made the interesting choice of having a simpler, smaller movie as his follow-up. By choosing to make a film that is immediate and uncomplicated he manages to avoid poor second film syndrome and establishes himself as a director with original and worthwhile vision. After this one-two punch, I'll be looking forward to whatever project he chooses next.