Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan.
When hearing the story for Drive you would think it was a sequel to the Jason Statham Transporter films or the ever expanding roster of Fast and furious films. What we actually get is an intense ultra violent cult classic of a movie with not that much driving but plenty of thrills. Directed by the Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn whos last two films were Bronson and Valhalla Rising two films similarly about male characters who have violence permeate their lives. The story is a simple one: a part time Hollywood stunt driver played by Ryan Gosling moonlights as a bank robber his demands are too the point - 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. Next door to him lives a single mum (played by Carey Mulligan) who he befriends. Shortly after meeting her, her jailed husband is released and finding himself blackmailed by local criminals turns to driver for help in completing a last job for them. As you can expect not everything goes to plan and our “driver” ends up in trouble with dangerous mobsters. But this film is less about story and more about characters and tone. The first scene of the movie sets up the atmosphere of the film straight away opening with pounding 80’s synth and the neon lighting of LA. The film starts with a car chase but it’s not the classic speeding car chase were used too, it’s edited so tightly it looks like the film was cut with a razor blade, much like our main character the chase is full of slow building tension bordering on almost inactivity followed by sudden bursts of action as the driver uses the winding LA side streets to hide and evade capture from the police, it is a tense, exciting and very clever scene. What also makes this film a delight is the characters, there is solid support by Carey Mulligan as well as Bryan Canston as our main characters mentor and also scary turns as violent mobsters by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman but this film belongs to Gosling, Ryan Goslings unnamed “driver” is effortlessly cool, a man who says few words but can convey a million thoughts to the audience through a sideways smile and a bite of a toothpick, like the scorpion that emblazons the silver jacket he wears through the whole film (even when covered in splatters of blood) he is still and quiet until jumping into acts of violence to get himself out of a corner. Goslings character is a sociopathic mystery, cool and collected but flawed and with a hidden back story never explained but written in his detached personality. His character brings back memories of great leading men like steve Mcqueen and Clint eastwood.
Goslings performance as well as the film is pure unadulterated cinema. Every year I wait for the film that will define the year, this year belongs to drive.