Drive (2011 USA)

drive 4They cheered at Cannes, apparently. Surely that had to be a good sign?! Driver (Ryan Gosling) has a day job, he’s a Hollywood stunt man, but by night he makes the serious $$$ as a getaway driver for the criminal fraternity. Into his life comes married next door neighbour, Irene, and her little boy, Benicio, pitching him right into the middle of two wars. One is for his emotional worth, the other is with the criminal underworld.

At first glance it looks like a simple story given over to style – over – substance leanings. Our hero is a cold and quiet fellow who barely even speaks, blinks, or give any reference to his emotions. Propelling the picture forward is the complexity of Gosling’s Driver character. He has no back story for us to work from, and he gives nothing away outside of the tender bond formed with Irene and child. He is actually one of many purposeful grey areas within the plot structure. We learn just enough to be on his side, a noble but flawed hero battling against fate as he fights for the innocent in a modern pot – boiling Los Angeles.

Helps too that he’s so cool behind the wheel, sort of conjuring up some of Steve McQueen’s charisma. Director Nicholas Winding Refn delivers magic moments of car play – from the near ten minute opening getaway extended sequence – to a high speed kill or be killed pursuit. When the action flows it really pumps the adrenalin. Gosling is excellent, instantly iconic, soft voice matching his soft blue eyes, toothpick perched between teeth. It’s a testament to his acting ability that the homages to iconic characters of films past never veers into parody territory. But it is with the calm moments that he triumphs most: be it watching TV with the boy Benicio (a cute Kaden Leos) or just gazing intensely into Irene’s eyes, Gosling has a magnetic quality of some significance.

drive 5Carey Mulligan deftly underplays Irene to work off Gosling, creating some deep tenderness, their chemistry superb. Oscar Isaac does fine work with the ex-con/husband character that is thankfully not stereotypical. Albert Brooks thrives on simmering badness, while Bryan Cranston puts real heart into the role of Driver’s garage boss, the closest thing the Driver has to a friend. The only one dimensional character lands in Ron Perlman’s court, but Perlman is such an ebullient and watchable life force the film survives the character’s lumbering oafish-ness (if there is such a word). Bungled robberies, car chases, stunning roof top shots of Los Angeles, cartoonish gangsters – this could be Grand Theft Auto! What works is the mood it creates when setting up a brooding atmosphere, along with the 1970s period setting.

This is the result of seamlessly integrating a 1980s – inspired score by Cliff Martinez with intentionally mute moments. The director also pays attention to cinematography that focuses on a first-person perspective, literally putting the viewer in the driver’s seat. Even so, you get a feel of the world surrounding The Driver, though his past always remains a mystery. It is this mysterious past, complimented with a haunting atmosphere that gives The Driver an almost super-human personality. Towards the end this personality makes him appear unstoppable as a man on a mission. The narration flows at a steady pace but gradually picks up momentum towards the end and includes some scenes of extreme violence when you least expect it. Just make sure you have a strong stomach.

Ryan-Gosling_Drive

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Comments

  1. I’m very glad you mention Steve McQueen, because as I was watching the movie, all I could think of was Bullitt. That however is not mean to taken that the performance in this movie is any less, it one my all time favorite “chase” movies, and there hardly any chases. Yet it retro-style is awesome, just an amazing film that must be watch

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely agree with your comments. Thanks.

    Like

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