In the era of 3D movies and heavy reliance on CGI technology to display ‘out-of-this-world’ scenes, you would imagine a thriller about a getaway driver, in 2011, with a leading Hollywood heartthrob, would fit right in? Think again.
From Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson) Drive is a tale of a stuntman by day, getaway driver by night, and does something that no other thriller of the past ten years has done before. It’s based on the novel of the same name by James Sallis, and sees Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March) take on the role of an anonymous driver who becomes a marked man after a heist gone horribly wrong. The synopsis may sound familiar, but what Refn achieves in this film is different to what 99% of Hollywood directors do not even bother to create; it’s a film which is totally believable.
If you enjoy big stunts, gun-toting mobs and huge explosions this isn’t for you. If you enjoy realistic car chases, assassin-like fights, and a methodical pace then this is very much your film. Don’t be fooled however, Drive isn’t a feel good movie, but it is simple and it is honest. It has also been a hit worldwide; finding itself in many respected film critics’ top ten lists of 2011, and there’s also the small matter of a Cannes Film Festival Best Director award for Refn.
There were two things that really impressed me about this film. Firstly the cast list is impressive but lean, and includes some fine television and film actors who all settle into their respective roles perfectly. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) plays Gosling’s boss and all round mentor, Shannon;, who, whilst portraying a charming garage owner isn’t afraid to engage in illegal activities if it means making a quick buck; Albert Brooks (who is better known for his voice acting; in films such as The Simpsons Movie and Finding Nemo; rather than actual on camera performances), is terrific as a villain who is ruthless and exact, and delivers a performance which is truly scary (as he transforms from being just another slimy character to a cold-hearted killer). Carey Mulligan (Shame) is also perfectly placed as the driver’s love interest; a fragile single mother who contrasts the cool, calm, and sometimes brutal, driver.
Secondly, Gosling’s portrayal of the driver is just brilliant; other critics have argued that the performance is reminiscent of cinema legend Steve McQueen and I would wholeheartedly agree; from his choice of 80’s music, his ‘5-minute’ rule, the fast cars and the soon to be iconic scorpion jacket, Gosling gives this character a chilling edge in that his character can turn from cool to crazy in mere seconds. A particular scene in an elevator with an unfortunate hit-man displays him at his most brutal and Refn includes a few gory shots which may surprise some but are necessary to portray the reality and honesty of the situations.
If there’s anything to complain about, Drive can be too slow at times; with art direction taking over too much; including 20 second long shots of Gosling looking out of a window is both unnecessary, and slightly infuriating; when the viewer is so desperate to continue with the plot.
With regards to additional features on the DVD, apart from a sit down interview with Refn (which is pretty insightful), there isn’t a lot to shout about; photo galleries and trailers are purely filler and don’t offer anything special; but the quality of the actual film more than enough makes up for the lack of extras.
The Bottom Line:
Overall this is a film for the thinking cinema fan; a combination of brilliant acting, a compelling plot, and an uber-cool lead makes this film a modern classic; and if you want a film that feels real, from start to finish, Drive is definitely the film for you.