Movie Review – Drive
Ryan Gosling stars in Drive as a Hollywood stunt driver, who also rents himself out – for five minutes at a time – as a wheelman. Things quickly change, however, when he falls for his charming neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan).
I have actually been trying to write a review of Drive for a long time. I saw the film at Cannes – the screening was so full I had to sit on the floor – and again at Movie Fest. I was completely enamoured with what I saw on the screen that after the Cannes screening I was dying to find someone who had not loved it as much as me, just so I could fight them. Yeah, it’s that kind of a film.
Ryan Gosling is an incredibly pretty boy, and after The Notebook, he could have relied on his looks for a long time. Luckily for us, he did not. His character in Drive is complex and charming, even though we never really know what he is thinking, or in which direction he will go. He is very much a man of few words, and most of his thoughts are conveyed through looks – especially when Carey Mulligan is in the scene. This could come off as a character that is slightly dim, but there is nothing stupid about our hero. When things get tough the character has more than enough to say, but still manages to convey his feelings in an incredibly succinct manner. Gosling carries the film with ease; he never oversells the role and plays it with the quiet intensity that only comes when an actor is truly in love with the character they are playing. Gosling’s character is charming and sweet as well as tough as nails, while remaining mysterious and aloof.
Carey Mulligan does a fine job in the film. She shares Goslings glances with ease, but has little more to do than be the character that springs Gosling into action, as well as reveal his softer side. Christina Hendricks is incredibly underused, but it is clear that she had a blast playing the trashy thief Blanche. It had to be a break from playing the cool and collected Joan on Mad Men.
Nicolas Winding Refn revealed at the press conference in Cannes that he had a vision of the lead character being a guy who drives around LA at night listening to cheesy pop music, and this is exactly what the lead character does. The soundtrack gels the film together, and gives us hints into the character; as all good soundtracks should. Special mention has to go to College’s A Real Hero, the jewel in the musical crown. The hot pink opening titles – along with the white satin jacket that Gosling’s character seems to enamoured with – help to sell the soundtrack as well as throw in splashes of nicely timed nostalgia.
Drive plays with the exploitation style, and since it is a film about a driver, it is hardly surprising that it swerves (sorry) towards carsploitation. That said, don’t write Drive off as Fast and the Furious 6, the film is dirty, beautiful and tough; one can almost imagine Winding Refn sitting in the edit booth, scratching away at 35mm film to get the right look. The film is beautifully shot, has the best use of slow motion seen on screen in a long time and the car chases are fast and adrenaline fuelled enough to balance out the calm and carefully measured dialogue. The audience knows virtually nothing about the driver, yet within moments, are rooting for this guy to win. The story is much more complex than it appears at first; as soon as the audience thinks they have it pegged, Winding Refn surprises, and keeps us guessing until the last moment. If you are a fan of Death Proof, or the exploitation style of film making, see Drive. It is messy, violent and badass with a killer soundtrack.
I saw Drive in May. Three months later I have no hesitation in reiterating what I said then; this film will be on my Top Five list of 2011. It is truly remarkable.