Dir.: Nicolas Winding Refn
With: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan
I had high hopes for this movie and I wasn’t completely disappointed. This is a very conscientious take on the LA noir genre. “Drive” could have easily been set in the 60s, 70s or 80s – the main character with no name seems to bear not just a fleeting resemblance to Steve McQueen in his denim outfit and driving gloves. The story revolves around Driver, played by Ryan Gosling, who is a very talented…well…driver. His day jobs include working as a mechanic at a garage and as a stuntmen in action films. At night he operates as a get-away driver for armed robberies. He never carries a gun and his only rule is that he gives exactly 5 minutes of his skill to the robbers; during the 5 minutes he delivers them to safety.
The first half of the film was particularly enjoyable – it has a certain visual flare that reminded me of some Tarantino films. Ryan Gosling, whom I haven’t seen since “The Notebook” delivers an amazing performance. He is extremely composed and tranquil for most of the film, yet there is a quiet intensity about him and he gives us just enough of facial expressions to guess what could be lurking beneath the reserved exterior. I loved the contrast between his apparent stillness and the passion of his driving. He barely opens his mouth to speak – the enigma is almost ruined when you do hear him talk, he has an almost comical, womanly, nasal voice. His slick, uniformed silhouette is so painfully cool that you almost want to be like him. His movements are minimal yet very graceful. He has a curious moral code and seems to follow it to the fullest when he encounters Irene (Carey Mulligan), his single-mum neighbour. Driver's feelings for her are quiet and unassuming.
I was thoroughly enjoying the central performances, the visual style and the fabulous soundtrack by Kavinsky (it really reflected the pulsating underbelly of LA and the sounds of a revving engine) up until the story took a 90-degree turn and became a violent story of revenge. The holes in the plot were so apparent that my appreciation of the film was somewhat dampened. I did like the unflinching take on the violence in it - hammers, face-smashing et al, but the plot development was not great.
There was one cameo that stood out the most – Christina Hendricks from Mad Men has a short but very memorable part as a petty criminal, and as unusual as it was to see her in modern clothes, she managed to convey all the emotions of her character in a few strong scenes.
Having said all this, it is really Ryan Gosling who holds the movie together. He has visibly matured since his notebooking days. Unlike many other actors of his generation he continues to make independent films with interesting scripts and I very much look forward to “The Ides of March” with him and a certain Mr Clooney.
Do not watch the trailer for “Drive”, it tells you the whole story. Instead, listen to some Kavinsky!