Ryan Gosling is a newbie on Hollywood’s A list, but judging from his performances in his last few films he definitely belongs there despite breaking into the business as a Mouseketeer. Gosling was excellent as the low key man of few words who goes by the label ‘driver’ for most of the movie, but ‘Drive’ isn’t a feel good film by a long shot so if you are looking for happy endings look for something else showing at the Cineplex.
‘Drive’ can best be described as L.A. film noir. Instead of a black and white film with a mysterious woman one can imagine wearing only the reddest of lipsticks, ‘Drive’ has a dull hue of L.A. sunshine accompanied by people who have made a few wrong turns but still have a little bit of heart. The glamour of Hollywood appears but only as a backdrop for movie stunts involving cars (one of the driver’s part time jobs). In the opening scene the audience meets the driver as a man for hire who is driving the getaway vehicle for two robbers he has never met. He tells them that for five minutes he’ll wait for them to do whatever their business is, but after that he leaves. The scene is pretty dramatic in a traditional nail biting way and it also establishes Gosling’s character as one smooth operator.
As in most film noir movies, there is a love story of such that doesn’t involve much dialogue but a lot of speculation of what could be. The driver’s next door neighbor is Irene (Carey Mulligan) who is a young mother with a husband in prison. They spend time together and are on the verge of becoming intimate when Irene’s husband is unexpectedly released from the big house. Of course the audience is prepared to think ill of him, but the man comes off as a guy who just wants to start over but is encumbered by his past – a trait the driver recognizes and thusly inspired into taking steps toward making a happy ending for everyone but himself. I suppose I need not note that things go a trifle array.
I’m not going to give up any more information because ‘Drive’ is the sort of film that true film connoisseurs love. The movie also features several recognizable faces in roles that are outside of their usual comfort zones including Christina Hendricks, Bryan Cranston (okay not much of a stretch for him) Ron Perlman (stepping out of his usually low budge Medieval fair) and Albert Brooks (the funniest role I have ever seen him in – BTW, he is a businessman gangster and the role itself isn’t supposed to be humorous, but I don’t usually find him or his films that comedic).
‘Drive’ marks the American debut of Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn whom I’m going to bet we will be seeing a lot more of (this film received a standing ovation at Cannes). The screenplay is by Hossein Amini who has also penned the 2012 film ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’. I know, I thought huh as well. Beyond being an interesting story, I think it is the first movie I have seen in a long time whose soundtrack really helped define the characters and plot. I also liked how both the music and overall look of the film (especially the ‘Miami Vice’ pink font for the credits) was reminiscent of the 80’s. In fact for a while I wondered if the movie was supposed to be set in the 80’s but the cell phones indicated no. The apartment building that both the driver and Irene live in appears to have been last decorated in that decade thus everything feels rundown and retro in not a good way.
As I earlier stated, ‘Drive’ isn’t a feel good movie, however it is a good film which will probably be embraced in years to come as a classic. It makes for a great date film, but as a violent and R rated flick it isn’t for the family. I think it will play just as well on DVD and cable.