FILMDISTRICT (2011)

 

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

 

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Oscar Isaac, Ron Perlman, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks

The dark streets of LA are quiet, a neon buzz crackles in the distance, but here in the shadows a heist is going down. Luckily for the culprits, they have a Driver (Gosling) with immense ability in getting away - one that also operates as as a mechanic and a movie stuntman, all under the watchful eye of Shannon (Cranston). Moving from place to place allows the Driver anonymity, however when he meets his new neighbour Irene (Mulligan) and her son Benicio, he is immediately taken.

Dripping with Refn’s signature visuals, Drive is a wonderful looking movie that plays as a mysterious neo-noir crammed with shady mob types, an innocent woman caught in the cross hairs and a charmingly enigmatic protagonist.

As is Refn’s style, the movie plays in a slower, erratic pace but one that allows the narrative to naturally expand and allow the story to be told. We are the victors for this situation.

 

Set in the near dream-like setting of LA, the city itself becomes a character within the film, thanks largely to the beautiful, lingering cinematography. Driving the movie along (pun potentially intended) is the exciting and pulsating soundtrack – a pure explosion of electro strokes and on pulsing beats. Together, they contribute significantly to the feel of the movie and ensure you become immersed in the environment.

 

Ryan Gosling is immense as the Driver, playing the role with a seething intensity bubbling behind his eyes and toothpicked smirk. He doesn’t say much throughout the film, though his soft interactions with Irene and Benicio are clearly defined in comparison to his calculated violence dished out with a cold fury. Complimenting his performance, Carey Mulligan’s innocent portrayal of a soft, seemingly naive neighbour and potential love interest is wonderful. Wholesome without ever becoming melancholy, she provided a great foil to Gosling’s simmering Driver. Albert Brooks is marvellous as the crime lord, providing the bombast omitted from the leads performances, with Cranston and Perlman note perfect in their supporting roles.

 

The pacing won’t suit everybody’s taste, and Drive isn’t a straight up action movie, though there are thrilling car chases and moments of gore and violence sprinkled throughout – the moments however compliment the cut throat nature of the movie, and add another gritty layer to the movie’s bubbling undercurrent. Don’t go in expecting blood and thunder throughout.

 

Immersive and riveting, Drive provides a fantastic antidote to the more “explosive” movies out there – be it action or gangster. A thoughtful, layered movie teeming with fantastic performances and an ending as elusive as the Driver himself, do yourselves a favour and watch this movie.

 

No getaway needed.

March 30th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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