Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Christina Hendricks, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston
Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
Runtime: 100 minutes
Not ‘Drive Angry 3D’ – phew!
As soon as we commence with ‘Drives’ quite brilliant opening, a cool but not so frantic getaway; it is clear that you don’t f**k with ‘The Driver’. Ryan Gosling simply oozes class, cool and intimidation with a soon to be seen ruthlessness that, although not coming as a surprise (there is a clear, deep simmering, primal instinct beneath the calm exterior) is no less stunning.
The prologue opening is simply awesome, calm yet tense, a cat and mouse hide and chase that gives us a stylish glimpse of the night blue metal cool of a Los Angeles to come; the same reflective, cold, hard LA seen in Michael Mann’s ‘Heat’. Held; up close shots, slow aerial pans and zooms add extra tension to Gosling’s already smouldering, unflappable driver. Twinkling, grand cityscapes act as a backdrop to Goslings night crawling, flowing seamlessly into the superb 80’s electro, thudding, iconic, pink neon title sequence.
Stunt driver by day, wheelman by night, the driver is ‘a man with no name’ and of few words. He lets others do the talking, but he is forced into action when he starts up a tentative and restrained relationship with his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan). He agrees to help out her paroled husband to pay back a debt to an LA gangster by doing a small time heist, which goes badly wrong. In order to protect his neighbour and her son he has grown fond off, he embarks on a spree of ultra-cool violence which provides an insight into the true capability of our ‘Driver’.
Mulligan’s and Gosling’s on screen show radiates tension and is charged, owed to the subtle unknowing smiles and long silent gazes, both of them uncertain and equally tarnished.
The definite quiet and the slow developing relationship of the opening play of ‘Drive’ is a purposeful device used to build tension for the inevitable second acts fallout of events, glimpsed at with ‘Driver’s’ first tell of what lies beneath in a chance encounter with a previous associate, showing that he is as equally as brutal and intimidating with a few very measured words as he is when he is about to put a nail in someone’s head. When he chillingly asks, often throughout “Do you understand” – you understand!
The true tension that ‘Drive’ crafts from the off is all down to the fact that we are just watching and waiting for it all to escalate, and escalate it does. Responding only to aggravation, more passing triggers come as events unfold, ‘Driver’ will strike and decisively, symbolised no more so, than by the scorpion insignia on the back of his stunt jacket.
Violence IS ultra, and often the mashed melon reveals someway detract from the style and methodical cool, what you don’t see and the build from the pre-emptive slow-mos is often more foreboding and gripping than the imminent outburst of violence. Providing the calm before the proverbial storm of when gosling explodes into shocking action, gives more impact to ‘Drive’s’ violent episodes. His interrogation of gangster’s moll Blanche serves as a terrifying warning and an example of pure intimidation without violence, but we soon see what he is prepared to do, if the answers needed are not so forthcoming.
Support is given by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman. Perlman is slightly disappointing as the token middle man goon Nino, but bigger boss Brooks is superbly malevolent as Bernie, who too shows a will equal to the ‘Driver ‘and will act with unflinching brutality.
Christina Hendricks (Blanche) is underused and her appearance is borderline cameo. At only 100 minutes ‘Drive’ may have spent a little more time to flesh out these ancillary players some more, adding a greater character study that could have made it epic, especially when no back story is given to Goslings ‘Driver’. Making Gosling’s driver a ‘man with no name’ works and is the premier performance, adding greater mystery and allure, making ‘The Driver’ an Icon for any era. Gosling has already provided some memorable and brilliant performances in ‘Blue Valentine’ and ‘Half Nelson’ but ‘Drive’ is his iconic role so far.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s dynamic direction and a supreme soundtrack make ‘Drive’ a brilliant instant classic; an early entry as a great movie for this still new decade, comparable with 90’s classic ‘Heat’, not as epic but no less lacking in style and cool.
Drive is brilliant! Put your foot down and cruise to your nearest DVD outlet – “Do you understand?”
Highly recommended: 9/10