Drive (2011)

Director: Nicolas Winding Refm
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman

I have never wanted to walk around chewing on a toothpick as much as I did after watching this film.

The plot:
A nameless driver  (Gosling) works on a Hollywood movie set doing stunts. By night however, he runs getaways. Seemingly for kicks. That’s what cool guys like Ryan Gosling like. Kicks. Despite this however, his life seems largely uneventful until he becomes involved with his neighbour, Irene (Mulligan), and her son, Benecio. Before he has to chance to experience anything resembling happiness, all hell breaks loose when Irene’s husband returns from jail. Forced to do a job in exchange for the protection he received in jail, the driver offers his assistance. Then all hell breaks loose……again.

Ryan Gosling is a cool guy. Let’s all just take a moment to bask in his coolness. Do you have a photo handy? Hang on, here’s one:

Look at him there, lookin’ all cool behind the wheel. It is a fair achievement for me to be turned around like this as the only other film I had seen him in was The Notebook which I didn’t really care for. In this film though, he somehow manages to epitomize the entire notion of cool in an incredibly casual way. His character is strange in that he seems socially inept in the film. Not in an annoying doesn’t-talk-about-anything-but-Nickelback kind of way, but simply in that he doesn’t seem used to conversing with other people. In fact, the one very minor negative aspect that I would note about the film is that this seems a little forced, having him pause for what seems like a slightly over long period of time during conversations.

This is such a small complaint, it is a grain of sand on a beach made of awesome. The driver remains an intriguing character, a wonderful personality to watch on-screen. He is not utterly silent throughout, and charming despite his reclusive nature. This really comes out when he is given time to interact with Irene and Benicio, and we see a window into a potentially happy life for him.

All of this changes, naturally, when fate intervenes and Irene’s husband returns. The jobs the driver undertakes are adrenaline pumping, but never as extreme or OTT as the ridiculous Fast and the Furious movies. This isn’t car pornography, a worry that may be hanging over the heads of many. This is an involving film, with a rich narrative and characters, that just happens to feature some cool car chases. (The opening car sequence in particular is fantastically memorable and will hook the audience instantly).

It is intriguing that this silent, charming character that we so quickly grow attached to can so steadily and effortlessly transform into such a venomous entity when his happiness is threatened. It is frightening how cold he can become, how easily he can blend in with the crowd of murderers and criminals, and all the while without hardly saying a word. This is Gosling flexing his acting muscle only to find he accidentally punched a hole in a mountain in the process.

The rest of the cast all submit great performances as well. Carey Mulligan is very easy to warm up to as Irene. The chemistry between her and the driver is incredibly apparent, virtually sparking onscreen, and she delivers emotions very believably. Shannon (Cranston) is brilliant as the drivers father figure, quirky, warm and a little bit sneaky. Like your Uncle Jimmy, who’ll buy you a drink, but then embarrass you by showing baby photos to your girlfriend.

Then of course there’s the bad guys. Nino (Perlman) manages to be sinister enough, a dirty man in both appearance and manner. And Bernie Rose (Brooks), our central antagonist, is very much a kind of distorted mirror image of the driver. He projects an air of uncertainty, often likeable enough, but with an air of malice hidden beneath the skin. It is only when the bullets start to fly that he removes this mask, and we see how cruel and malevolent he can really be.

What else have I forgot to mention…ah yes, I forgot to say, this film looks fantastic. We open with a long tracking shot of the city, but following that, we are treated primarily to claustrophobic angles and tight sets, reflective of the oppressive loneliness that haunts the driver. In one beautiful exception to this style of shooting, the camera rolls lovingly over an expansive and sunlit expanse of road, as the driver and Irene drive through it, beginning to really connect on an emotional level.

A beautiful film to watch, powerful, engaging, and with some fantastically tense action sequences. This will win Oscars.

Awful Rating: 10/10

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” – Driver

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • It felt really really hot as I was leaving the cinema, and I wasn’t really sure why. I had gotten halfway down O’ Connel street when I figured I was going to have to stop wearing my jacket the cool way the driver did, and just settle for chewing on a toothpick.
  • Ryan Gosling made ‘not’ talking so cool, an new franchise is being built around the concept. Observe:

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