September 29, 2012
A couple of months ago, Fan of the Month Sam asked for me to review Drive. One of my favourite films of 2011 despite only seeing it this year, it was every bit as enjoyable on the re-watch.
Despite the widespread hype Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive received last year, it still managed to escape me. Not shown near where I live (an action which prompted a critical email to the local multiplex), I waited with bated breath as I read raving review after raving review. Concerned that the much publicised level of graphic violence would be too much for me, or that it wouldn’t have lived up to my expectations; I reservedly watched Drive. I needn’t have been so cautious; Drive is every bit as spectacular as publicised.
Much like an old Clint Eastwood western, Drive’s main character is devoid of a name. Known only as the Driver (Ryan Gosling), a mysterious Hollywood stuntman, getaway driver and mechanic; he delves into the underworld deeper than before when he falls in love with neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan). When her ex-convict husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) returns home from prison, the Driver helps him out in a heist designed to clear his protection money debts to a local gangster; things go terribly wrong. Determined to protect Irene and her son Benicio from deadly criminals, the Driver retaliates to protect those he loves.
There really isn’t any need for hyperbole here. Drive is the best film of 2011, comfortably qualifying as one of my favourites. Gosling’s brooding presence as the Driver dominates every scene; the absence of backstory and general knowledge about his character is irrelevant. Winding Refn proves that it’s not necessary to know every detail about a character to achieve this level of depth. Lonely, fearless and charming; Gosling is simply outstanding as the Driver. His cool, sexiness overflows to make the entire movie equally as sexy.
Gosling isn’t just the best thing about Drive; the rest of the cast are equally impressive. Carey Mulligan as Irene is characteristically sharp and sweet; Ron Pearlman as mobster Nino is brutal and Bryan Cranston as Shannon just made me realise what all the fuss is about. He’s far more than just Malcolm’s dad. Each emotive performance is only made better by Refn’s subtle direction. His depiction of Irene and Driver’s obvious love is electric, heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time.
Likened by some to a Quentin Tarantino film; Winding Refn’s Drive is nothing like it. Comparative only because of its violence (which is extreme even for a Tarantino flick), Drive is a far more intelligent movie. Affecting, beautiful and original; it is perfect. Winding Refn’s direction is only made more atmospheric by the wonderfully retro indie synth pop score that will be rattling around in your brain for days afterwards; as will the Driver.