Cert: 18 Runtime: 100 mins Director: Nicolas Winding Refn Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks and Ron Pearlman
If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours no matter what. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down; I don’t carry a gun… I drive
I was very lucky to catch an advance screening of Drive a few weeks ago, and as it’s out in UK cinemas this week I thought it would be best for me to share my opinion on this behemoth of a film.Refn recently was awarded Best Director at Cannes Film Festival, and many critics are hailing this as one of the films of the year.Drive tells the story of an unnamed stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) moonlighting as a getaway driver for a crime syndicate run by Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks). Seemingly a loner, the driver becomes involved in the life of his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son Benicio (Kaden Leos). After agreeing to drive for Irene’s newly paroled husband Standard (Oscar Isaac), and finding himself on the wrong side of assassination contract, the driver embarks on a mission to protect Irene from the vicious gangsters who would seek to harm her to get at him.
I’ve seen the last few Nicholas Winding Refn films, and while I liked both Bronson and Valhalla Rising a lot, they were both “difficult” films, in that both structure, pacing and tone were bound to alienate some people, and of course they were both marketed as somewhat mainstream films while being anything.Driver has a tone of weary amusement at everything around it, much like Gosling’s half-smirk, pivoted on the toothpick perpetually in the corner of his mouth. Schmucky gangsters and mob clichés provide some laughs, but the heart of the film is Gosling’s portrayal of the unnamed? main character and his sweet, underplayed romance with Mulligan and her young son. While an ethereal synthesizer-pop soundtrack provides an at-times tender,at-times mythic undercurrent, the car chases and action scenes, when they come, are tense, brutal and brief- far more Eastern Promises than The Transporter. Mulligan plays her character all trembly, wet-eyed, sweet and innocent and is swept away by Gosling’s quiet strength and self-assured charm, while Gosling speaks little and remains a mystery to the end, though we never doubt his fundamentally good nature. The seasoned supporting cast are all very fun, except maybe for Hendricks who is relegated to a fairly irrelevant part. Of course, this is really Gosling’s film, and he inhabits the character completely, turning what could be a straightforward Hollywood tough-guy role into a complex and contradictory character, self-confident and physical, yet clearly lonely and possessed with a certain peculiarity and stillness, almost reminiscent of De Niro’s Travis Bickle.
Visually the film is lush and gorgeous. Like Michael Mann, Refn and his cinematographer are able to instill LA with a sense of life and character that most directors just fail to do. Unlike Mann however, Refn opts for warm orange tones over Mann’s hard blues, and in one particularly beautiful sequence the familiar LA cliché of driving down the dry LA river is taken to an unexpectedly joyful conclusion. Despite its absolute craftsmanship, Driver is probably not for everybody, which makes me sad. People who prefer bald-headed muscle men slugging and wise-cracking their way into their wallets should of course stay away, as this bears very little resemblance to the standard Hollywood fare associated with the genre, and they might well be disappointed. This is a breath of fresh air to me, I see awards coming in Ryan Gosling and Refn’s way.Driver was sweet, surreal, mythic, tense, fun, hilarious, revolting, and surprising. See it because it will make you a better person. 8.8/10