David Michod’s 2010 Animal Kingdom made a big splash and helped to put Jacki Weaver and Joel Edgerton on the American map. His new one, The Rover, feels bit like Unforgiven meets The Proposition (side note: I read some critics comparing this to a Leone film. Really? Aside from the dirt and the dust these are pretty stylistically at odds).
That said, Michod’s post-apocalyptic-western-road movie does take advantage of some gorgeously bleak wide landscapes:
It’s hard, also, to not think of Cormac McCarthy here. For me, at least, these are the types of images a McCarthy novel conjures up. And though it’s one of the least successful adaptations of his work, The Road actually comes closest to this look.
For all of the violence in the film, Michod’s pace is slight. Some of that comes from the opening moments where much is offscreen, including a briefly mentioned altercation involving Robert Pattinson’s Rey, and then a car wreck, which, while not truly offscreen, hovers only dangerously in the background as Guy Pearce’s Eric goes about his slow day:
That strategy changes later in the film with a motel room shootout and some climactic gunplay, but more than the violence, Michod’s film is marked by its dreary atmosphere and slow build to an inevitable death (whose death, however, is not so inevitable).
One of my favorite parts of The Rover, oddly enough, is the costume design. It’s simple and feels found, like from a thrift store. Or, given that this is “ten years after the collapse,” from a looted house:
There’s nothing about the costuming above, or throughout, that really feels designed. Characters often wear what’s comfortable, or a hodgepodge of clothing.
Pattinson is the highlight of the film. Having only seen him before this in Cosmopolis I didn’t really know what to expect. In that film he had to be so restrained and cold. Here he’s jittery, nervous, and at times it feels like he’s really straining to just spit a word out.
He has something nearing a speech impediment, and opposite Pearce, who here is calm and confident, that near-lisp is accentuated. But it’s not just the mannerisms. I believed Pattinson’s performance from an emotional and physical level. He has a great walk in this film and an awesome moment of pure fear in the aforementioned motel room.
An Iraqi film that is visually international – shot in Iraq, Germany, Turkey, and Norway – Before Snowfall takes the revenge/honor killing narrative and combines it with young love. Siyar (Abdullah Taher) follows his sister across the globe in order to kill her for disgracing his family and his family’s entire village by fleeing an arranged marriage.
The opening of the film promises something different than what the movie eventually is. Siyar is wrapped in plastic and lowered into an oil truck.
The image is eerie and surreal and quite different in tone and style than what follows. What follows is a beautifully shot and grim road movie. Though Taher and Suzan Ilir as Evin, his female companion on the road, both give good performances, and the climax of the film is heartbreaking, there’s something about it that feels too clean. In order for Siyar to complete his journey, and in order for that journey to span a great distance, Siyar’s sister Nermin (Bahar Ozen) is very easy to find everywhere. This could point to a deeper plot point: the insistence on revenge, the deeply rooted long arm of vengeance, etc, but in the end it feels like a narrative contrivance. Similarly, without much historical context (I’d love to hear a counterpoint here if anyone has one), Siyar’s motivation for protecting Evin at a climactic moment feels forced and unnecessary aside from conveniently producing the dramatic ending.
That said, Before Snowfall is an effective film and quite successful in the juxtaposition of childhood and violence. While watching Siyar – only a teenager – we’re frequently pulled between feelings of sympathy and unease, or even dislike. It’s easy to forget in certain scenes that his end-goal is one of extremism.