directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
I'm not one for car chases and mindless action sequences, so I was initially unenthusiastic about Drive. But as the buzz grew, I thought it deserved a chance.
The movie opens with Driver, played by Ryan Gosling, coolly exploiting the streets of Los Angeles and outfoxing cops as the driver of a getaway car. This sequence establishes Driver as a mesmerizing and intriguing loner. By day he's a stunt driver for B movies and works in a garage with Shannon (Bryan Cranston), his unlucky partner in crime.
As the story progresses, Driver develops a relationship with his beautiful and vulnerable neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan). They have a palpable connection, but in a week, her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), is released from prison. Soon Irene and her young son Benecio are in danger because of Standard's criminal past. Driver finds himself getting involved to help Standard pay off his debt, but things quickly spin out of control and his darker nature is revealed.
Admittedly, I'm a sucker for the strong, silent type. But Gosling is especially charismatic and genuine as Driver. He is ultra-cool with a toothpick in his mouth and a hip silver jacket with a giant yellow scorpion on the back. Mulligan is undeniably attractive and certainly believable as a love interest for Driver, although she is perhaps a bit too cute and vulnerable.
The film's Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson and Valhalla Rising) has a penchant for graphic violence that was absent for much of the film. Then, after nearly an hour, it quickly becomes intense with grotesque and unsettling violence.
The neo-noir look of the film as well as its entrancing soundtrack and stylish pacing make for a pulpy and thrilling surprise. Drive is not a movie about car chases that just so happens to have some awesome car chases. I highly recommend it.
26 November 2011
Send us your opinions!
"I used to produce movies in the '80s. One critic called them 'European.' I thought they were shit."
Drive is a cunningly self-reflexive homage to '80s art films -- but it's not shit. The film respectfully takes the hokey styling of the era (neon. pink. credits.), then combines it with the character types of '50s cinema. When watching Drive you'll undoubtedly begin to feel like you're watching Brando from The Wild One mixed with the aesthetics of Risky Business.
In Drive, Ryan Gosling is Driver. By day he is a stunt driver for Hollywood films, but by night he drives getaway cars. Since he is the strong -- tight, white T-shirt wearing -- silent type, he naturally has a soft, caramel center. He falls for the adorable single mom in the neighboring apartment, Irene (Carey Mulligan), who is waiting for her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), to get out of prison. Once released, Standard vows to live a clean life. However, mobsters Nino (Ron Perlman) and Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) want Standard for a job, and everyone connected to him -- including the lovestruck Driver -- will have to fight to escape their clutches.
With minimal dialogue this film relies heavily on silent understanding between its characters and its viewers. Actions matter; when Irene reaches for Driver's hand, we understand that they are equally in love, and the first time we see him kiss her it is understood to be their last kiss.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn relies more on the camerawork and editing than on the acting to create unique characters for us. Irene never responds when Driver offers to take her and her son away to safety, but the camera's steady, unrelenting gaze on her face makes her silence loudly respond, How would we be safer with you? How could you, another man in my life with ties to criminals, keep us safe? She knows a cycle of self-destruction when she sees it.
The character Driver owes almost his entire being to Refn's camerawork and James Sallis' writing -- the author of the book Drive. The man is driving; the camera follows his smoothly calculated movements as if he is behind the wheel even when he's walking. He doesn't stop and turn around, he backs up. He is completely defined by his ability to professionally drive, his wristwatch that times the jobs he pulls, and the gaudy jacket (Hollywood glamour gone awry) that he is never without.
Gosling doesn't do much for this character except that his brooding, good-guy star persona never lets us doubt his character's pure intentions. This film is most likely his way of keeping his credibility in the indie film division while knocking out Oscar contenders.
However, an actor in this film that does pull his weight is Oscar Isaac. Previously seen in Sucker Punch, Isaac has little screen time yet he imbues his character with the most internal conflict and outward innocence; we may want Irene to leave Standard for Driver because he's handsome and sweet (and not a former convict), but Isaac almost wins us over in favor of second chances and unbroken homes. He gives a particularly oily yet endearing speech during his welcome home party, and like Irene we really want to believe he has changed.
Drive gets mildly cliched, especially toward the end when Driver goes on a rampage against Nino and Bernie Rose. The '80s-inspired music from artists such as College and Desire almost makes the serious nature of the encounters ridiculous. Fortunately, the extreme violence and gore during these scenes brings back some of the believability of life in the criminal underworld. More importantly, the high-octane driving scenes -- they have some of the best sound mixing you could ever hope for. You will feel like you're in the car -- jolt us out of our nostalgia coma when renditions of "Oh My Love" start playing.
10 March 2012
Send us your opinions!