Movies seem to so rarely live up to the mammoth expectations placed on them, unless they’re The Dark Knight or There Will Be Blood. But Drive gets pretty close. The incredibly cool, seductive new thriller by Nicolas Winding Refn hits our shores with a host of international accolades in tow. Hollywood ‘it’ guy Ryan Gosling plays ‘the man with no name’ who lets his actions do all the talking. He makes his skills apparent in the gripping opening sequence, as he navigates a getaway car calmly through cop cars and search helicopters. “I drive” he tells the crooks he helps, but for a precision-honed five minutes only. Then the withdrawn underworld artisan is gone.
Drive is overtly stylized and set to a hypnotic, synth-soaked soundtrack by Cliff Martinez (think Tangerine Dream). When the song ‘Under Your Spell’ by Desire comes on, forget it. Broken heart. The panoramic shots of downtown LA, in all its nighttime glory, provide a fitting backdrop. In the daytime, this is the LA of pawn shops, vacant parking lots, steep windy roads, cheap apartment blocks, diners and Echo Park. About midway through, Drive takes a turn away from semi-romance to high-impact violence. The sudden and graphic nature may shock, but it didn’t feel gratuitous. Some critics have panned the film for being all style and no substance, I disagree. Every shot and every line has a purpose, deployed for maximum impact, it’s retro genre heaven.
Really though, it’s all about the Gosling-factor (and not just because he turns grown women into giggly pre-teens). What a phenomenon he has become, and how exciting to see his career unfold this year. He’s proving again and again, that he can not only carry a film but he can lift it beyond expectations. The boyish charm and soft-spoken nature of Gosling make him an unusual choice as the avenger, even when he is stomping someone’s head into a bloody pulp. Hugh Jackman was originally cast as the lead which would’ve made an incomprehensibly different movie. Carey Mulligan plays the thinly, sketched character of Irene and is under-utilised. I didn’t really ‘buy’ her relationship with her husband in the film and was left wondering about the casting choices of both these actors. Albert Brooks, on the other hand, is a stroke of brilliance in his role. You’ll also see cast members of ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Sons of Anarchy’- proving quality TV is killing it right now.
Drive is a movie about a mood. The music, the cinematography, the glances between the characters, all make you fall into a pool of emotion. Sure it’s not the most unconventional story to be put to screen, but this is a slick and earnest work that gets it right. I’ll even forgive the shocking, fluoro-pink title font.
We have 10 double passes to giveaway to ‘Drive’ thanks to our friends at Pinnacle Films. To win, just tell us your most memorable car scene in movie history.