Thursday, September 22, 2011

Drive: the review

Today I've had the lucky occasion to see "Drive" starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman. It is a movie too violent for some, too slow-paced for others, but I found it a riveting meditation on love, violence and obsession. Ryan Gosling, who was spectacular in "The Believer" (2001), plays a quietly pleasant man who works as a stunt driver in Hollywood movies and a part-time mechanic by day, and an efficient professional getaway driver by night. He is a man of few words, but he is no less a presence for that - his character has emotions that run deep, rather than being repressed like so many other male characters. I was reminded of Clint Eastwood's Blondie from "Dollars" trilogy of Westerns or Jeremy Renner's character in "The Hurt Locker." He is a professional, he loves what he is doing, he is - when we first meet him - content with his life. Unlike many other close-lipped macho characters, however, he seems like a friendly and unassuming person. He is polite, and has a slow way of smiling that I've felt really captures the audience's sympathy. Perhaps that is why Irene - played with touching innocence and vulnerability by Carey Mulligan - and her little son Benicio take a liking to him.

The Driver - for he has no other name in the movie - likes them back. He is nice to both Irene and Benicio without being pushy, territorial or aggressively sexual towards Irene. There is a growing attraction between them, and there are several wonderful long shots that are quietly revealing. We sense that there is a potential for a real human connection - a lasting relationship - between the Driver and Irene and Benicio, but then of course everything starts going wrong for them as "Drive" becomes a stylish and intellectual crime thriller. Driver's friend and boss gets into debt to some very dangerous criminals (played adroitly by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman), Irene's husband is released from prison and he too owes dangerous people a lot of money. As people close to the Driver begin to pin their hopes and fears on him, his emotional calm begins to disintegrate, revealing a dangerous, violent and complex man underneath. To reveal more would be to spoil the surprises in the movie. "Drive" is slow-paced by current Hollywood-Michael-Bay standards, but still features a shocking amount of violence (all of which looks far more realistic than most Hollywood movies released this year), plot twists, and amazing car chase scenes.

"Drive" makes excellent use of real car stunts, not once did I feel that computer graphics were used, and indeed - none have. Indeed, "Drive" has outstanding cinematography throughout. There are gorgeous shots of the city, the road, landscapes, and shadows, that create a vision of Los Angeles that few movies have attempted to do before - "Collateral" (2004) being one of them. Director Nicolas Winding Refn also makes excellent use of music - music is used successfully to drive the action forward, and the way it subtly bleeds into the scene - it almost becomes a character in the movie! It is a beautiful movie from beginning to end.

I cannot recommend "Drive" highly enough. It is a beautiful, emotional, and charged movie, with a fantastic cast and art direction. It might be too meditative or alternatively too violent for some audiences, but I think that it will be a sleeper hit of 2011, and will be talked about and discussed for a long time to come.

*Warning, this a red band trailer*

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