Expectations were high for The Rover, Aussie David Michôd’s follow-up to Animal Kingdom, and this post-apocalyptic thriller is just as gripping, atmospheric and, yes, disturbing. Guy Pearce is the drifter wandering the mostly deserted Australian outback, apparently troubled by nothing apart from the sudden theft of his car. Pursuing the culprits, he teams up with an abandoned member of the gang (Robert Pattinson in American, not Australian, mode) and an odd-couple road trip commences.
It’s an instantly attention-grabbing set up: a journey through a vast desert full of mystery, with potential shock around every corner. Michôd only gives a brief outline of the futuristic set-up, so much of the excitement is in the discovery as layers are peeled off this harsh new world.
As anyone who’s seen Animal Kingdom will know, the squeamish need not apply. There are shocks, but not in a gimmicky way. This is about communicating the horrors of a desperate, barren world; something we’ve seen before, of course, but Michôd gives it his own spin. Characters are well-drawn, despite long swathes without dialogue. Pearce is as strong as he’s ever been and Pattinson shows more range than many might expect.
The supporting cast is great, from gritty-thriller regular Scoot McNairy to Animal Kingdom’s Susan Prior in a small but memorable role. Smaller roles are cast with an eye for the visually eccentric, giving early scenes a carnavalesque feel.
Co-written by Michôd with Animal Kingdom’s Joel Edgerton, The Rover is one of those compellingly nasty visions of the future that has plenty to say about humanity – whether we want to hear it or not.
The Rover lands in the UK on August 15.