Guy Pearce did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Eric in The Rover.
Guy Pearce plays the role of Eric who actually is never named during the film, only given one in the credits, and technically speaking he is a man with no name. Guy Pearce seems to be a fit for the part of the lone hero in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, in fact he played a last minute hero in The Road. Guy Pearce may physically look the part but Eric is not exactly dressed as you might expect. There's no cool heroic outfit, just a very casual shirt, shorts, and shoes, nothing to make him stand out exactly. Pearce though does carry himself partially as you might expect. Pearce has that steely gaze, and is completely effortless in the way he commands the screen. There is something so precise about Pearce's movements as Eric as he seems always abundantly certain of his next movement. There is no thinking about it he knows, and he certainly does not need to consult anyone else on any matter. Of course there is a distance Pearce creates in his manner, although in a different film you could view all of this as being just the manner of a bad ass hero, the thing is Eric's not a hero.
Eric's quest is caused by three criminals who swipe his car and make off with it, and Eric goes about trying to get it back. One of his first steps is to retrieve a gun from a dealer. Eric does not have any money to pay for it so Eric shoots the man in the head, who probably was not especially savory, but that's not the reason why Eric shot him, he just wanted the gun. Pearce is amazing in the part because of what he actually does is present a fascinating depiction of a certain amorality in Eric. His killings aren't for pleasure, nor for some sort of justice, but rather just something he just needs to do in terms of simply getting by. Pearce is very chilling by having such a detachment involved in the scenes where Eric goes about murdering people whether they were attacking him or not. There isn't a second thought in the process Pearce depicts it almost as just a job to do, but not really quite in that he seems to say that Eric isn't even that invested in the killing. Pearce is brilliantly disconcerting here as he kinda twists the usual sort of post-apocalyptic hero in something really quite brutal.
It's an interesting thing that Pearce somehow manages to not become someone that's too off-putting to become invested in. I suppose one could argue Pearce's considerable charisma allows this, but actually Pearce dials that down, although his particularly strong screen presence still obviously quite evident. I would say part of the reason is in his exact way that he shows that Eric's manner towards violence. Pearce is fantastic as he some how finds a different path as he's definitely not a cool action hero here, but he does not come off like the usual soulless killer type either. Eric is not an Anton Chigurh type. Pearce finds something else here that is very intriguing. The way Pearce interacts with everyone and everything has that same detachment, as he seems to even look past the people that may be speaking to them to something else. Pearce suggests Eric is almost of another mindset than anything else, and this is a brilliant approach on Pearce's part. Pearce's performance creates the idea that much of Eric's mind is another place so when he needs to interact with the present he does it without hesitation.
Eric's mind is somewhere though because this is not an unemotional performance despite Eric's cold treatment of the living. There is in fact a great emotional intensity within the technically calm reserve in Eric. Pearce probably does not even raise his voice once during his performance yet Pearce is absolutely searing in his depiction of Eric's emotional state. Pearce is spectacular though by how he has it all just right underneath the skin in Eric, and conveys an idea that Eric's mind mostly is in the past. This is rather compelling though because this is not a case of a man keeping his mind in the past in a nostalgic sort of fashion. Pearce instead is absolutely striking in depicting such a vigorous anger in him, and a palatable bitterness in the man. What may be the most remarkable though is that there is a great sadness as well. Pearce is spellbinding in the complexity of emotions he realizes while still keeping that constraint, and turns Eric into one captivating enigma. Eric is not without explanation though and there is a single scene where Eric reveals his past.
Pearce is extraordinary in the scene where Eric tells what happened in the past to a some sort of military man who took him prisoner. Eric reveals that he had murdered his wife and her lover after he discovered the affair. Pearce again still keeps Eric confined, as there is no reason for him to breakdown, as he's merely explaining something to the man. Pearce once again is marvelous as he internalizes the pain as Eric describes what he did. What is most notable about it though is that Pearce in this scene manages to explain the distance through his performance. Eric explains that no one came to prosecute him for his crime, nor did he face any scrutiny whatsoever for what he did. Pearce expresses that was perhaps the moment in which Eric detached himself from any sort sympathy, since committing such a heinous act meant nothing, therefore nothing he does in this present reality should mean anything. Explaining Eric very well might have backfired though but it does not because Guy Pearce is completely convincing in his explanation and creates one of most powerful scenes in the film.
To retrieve his car Eric rescues the critically injured brother of one of the men who took his car. Guy Pearce creates a believable dynamic relationship with the young man Reynolds (Robert Pattinson). Pearce starts out bluntly as Eric merely uses him to get to his brother and when he says he will slit Reynolds throat if he is lying to him, Pearce shows that this is merely the truth. Pearce is outstanding in the way he does subtly suggest a slight connection Eric develops with Reynolds. He never compromises Eric's nature, but in moments of recognition there is an understanding developed. One especially moving scene is when Reynolds laments having accidentally killed a young girl. Eric says it is good to remember those one has killed, and Pearce does not break Eric's reserve, but he does seem to discover a way of having a modicum of sympathy with another human being. Pearce builds this effectively until the climax of the film when there is finally a death that means something to Eric. Pearce's reaction is heartbreaking as he does finally make the emotions in the man leave from under his skin and come to the open. It's not even a loud breakdown but in the simplicity of Pearce's performance there is such poignancy. Even in the film's final twist regarding Eric's quest only makes complete sense due to Pearce's characterization. Guy Pearce creates a masterful portrait of a haunted man who seems to have lost all his humanity for the present due to it being trapped by the past.