The classic heist film is back as Ryan Gosling dawns the leather jacket and takes viewers for a spin
*Warning this review contains spoilers*
Drive was one of those films that I was not particularity excited for. I first saw the trailer during an episode of Breaking Bad and thought it simply looked like an edgier The Fast and the Furious. I could not have been further from the truth, as Drive turns out to be a surprisingly great film, and one of my favourites of the year.
Ryan Gosling stars as Driver, a stunt driver by day, wheelman (someone who drives during a heist) by night. What makes Driver interesting though is his motto: “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, then 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.” Every heist he ties a watch to the wheel of his car and waits for the minutes to tick down. If the person makes it he does everything he can to get them out without being caught. If not, than they are on their own. However, his motto comes to be tested as Driver’s life gets taken for a spin (see what I did there) after a heist goes terribly wrong, and so he must do everything he can to survive, avenge those lost, and protect those that he loves; including his neighbour, Irene, played wonderfully by the cute and quiet Carey Mulligan.
While the plot line seems very generic, what make this film stand apart is the cinematography and the acting. With a little Euro chic, and inspiration from earlier heist films, in particular those of Steve McQueen; director Nicolas Winding Refn manages to make a film that pushes itself away from this oversaturated genre and into a realm of its own. Scenes sometimes go on longer than a typical Hollywood film, and there is not particularly a lot of dialogue between Driver and Irene. However this is what makes the film stand out. In such simple dialogue amongst the two leads, all their emotion is conveyed in their facial expressions. Driver is quiet and humble, perhaps because of what he has seen, or because he wants out of his messed up career choice. Irene is cute, quiet, and sensible simply because of what her boyfriend/father of her child has put her through. Together Gosling and Mulligan play a surprisingly cute couple that must come to face their issues together.
However, their performances would mean nothing if not for the villains of the film. Ron Perlman plays one hell of a nasty character, whom I did have a shed of sympathy for due to his family history, but the real villain of the film is Albert Brooks. I have seen Albert Brooks in a great many shows and film. From The Simpsons, to Marlin in Finding Nemo, I was so use to seeing him as this respectable and fatherly figure. Well this film immediately changed that perspective as his portrayal as Bernie Ross, a mobster who backs Shannon (played by Bryan Cranston) and Driver in a race. “My hands are a little dirty” Driver says when Bernie offers to shake his hand. “So are mine”, Bernie responds. This perfectly sums up their relationship and the tone of this movie, for both have done their fair share of…illegal activity let’s say, which is altogether brought to the forefront in this film. Lastly it was interesting to see Bryan Cranston in something where he wasn’t playing a complete badass. He plays a loving, fatherly figure to Gosling’s character and it was interesting to see just how good these two were together. Overall though, the acting is superb, especially Gosling and Brooks, who truly shine in such a dark film, because oh boy does this film get dark.
Drive, above all else, is a revenge flick. When the film starts off you have the assumption that we will be following Driver’s day to day life, with a bit of action thrown in for good measure. This is true, for about the first half of the film. We see him in a few heist, followed by some cool car chases. However, after the heist goes all wrong the film takes a dramatic turn, and things get messy. Driver, well, no longer becomes just a driver. He comes to hunt down those that killed his partners, and in grand fashion. Whether it be making out with Irene in an elevator as a means to protect her, only in the next instance to crush a hitman`s skull who is standing right beside them; to a particularly intense scene where Driver walks into a strip joint with a hammer and bullet for the mob scum sent to kill him- director Nicolas Refn makes a spectacle of the carnage, to the point that it is almost unbearable to watch. However, these scenes seem necessary to demonstrate just how far down the rabbit hole Driver is, and how much he needs to get out of this business. Although messy, there is a nice blend of graphic violence and reasoning behind it that suits the overall mood of the film.
Whether it is the cool, albeit limited, chase sequences, the fine performances, or the euro pop that plays throughout the film, Drive pulled me in and put the pedal to the metal. Every year there is a movie or two that surprises me, and well this was it. Words cannot describe just how much I enjoyed this film, or just how much of a badass Ryan Gosling now is in my books. So in short I leave you with this: go see this movie! I know I will be again.
The Good: Interesting characters, simple but great dialogue, cool chases, overall cinematography, leather jackets being brought back.
The Bad: Plot is a bit thin, but overshadowed by the performances; leather jackets being brought back.
The Ugly: Some might argue that this film is a bit too violent.
Overall: 10 out of 10