By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks
Drive is one of those movie projects that could have been so much different. Because, at one point, Hugh Jackman was set to star and Neil Marshall (Descent) direct. Low and behold, schedules got in the way, and once Ryan Gosling nabbed the lead part, he hand picked Nicholas Winding Refn based on his work in the brilliant Bronson to direct Drive. Now, while I have no doubt that Jackman and Marshall would have made a very decent movie, I feel there is absolutely no way they could have matched this effort. Bringing about a feel of 1970s-1980s gritty crime flicks, Drive should be counted amongst the best films of 2011. Well acted and directed, with some great cinematography added to the mix, Drive gives you a feeling that you are in the hands of people who can not only weave a tale, but immerse you in it, leading its way to the finish line not wanting to have more, but feeling fulfilled.
The story concerns Gosling playing The Driver. What’s his name you ask? That’s just it. He has no real identity to the audience, making him a very unlikely hero. This side of him comes out after he meets Irene (Mulligan), who has a son from a man in prison. Their relationship, much like both of their performances, is a much understated one. There are no obvious clutches or dialogue that points to a loving spark between them. It is really all about the occasional glance or clutch of the hand that Irene gives him every so often, making it feel earned and not thrown in your face. The plot really gets moving when her husband Standard (Isaac) gets out of prison, and is subsequently killed while doing a job with Gosling. This is when Gosling’s Driver becomes the hero of the story. The much talked about elevator scene, quite frankly, deserves every bit of praise it has received. The Driver, while protecting Irene, makes his point known, and each & every one of his boots to that guy’s face is for the protection of her and her son. You also realize what he is feeling not by an obvious look, but a simple close-up of his leather gloved hand grasping a hammer, edging to let his anger over the situation, out.
Of course, there are way more than these two actors bringing their A game to the forefront in this one. Brooks, from the moment he shows up onscreen not asking, but demanding to know where his chopsticks are, is absolutely disturbing in his role of the head villain in the film. I have heard some critics say that his performance is overrated because all he was doing was playing himself. I would refute this by agreeing with the latter-which makes him all the more frightening. His character does things like taking a knife to a guy’s eye just to prove a point. I don’t seem to remember him doing that in Broadcast News or any of his earlier roles. Mulligan (who was excellent in 2010’s underrated Never Let Me Go) is great here, and Ron Perlman is, well, Ron Perlman. His back and forth conversations with Brooks are entertaining to watch. Even Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks has a small but pivotal role as an accomplice on one of Gosling’s jobs. Their scene in a motel room involving a shoot out and a mattress needs to be seen to be believed.
Bottom line folks: this is among the top three best films of 2011. Brilliantly directed, with shadows and foreshadowing galore (scorpion and the frog is referenced many times), Drive grabs a hold of you from the opening frame and, to borrow a phrase from the title of Mulligan’s earlier film, never lets go. With a really well put together soundtrack (very rarely do I go out and buy a soundtrack at all, let alone right after seeing a movie for the first time, but that’s what I did in this case),and a great script by Hossein Amini (the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman), director Refn has made a film that will live in your head for at least a week after you are done watching it, as opposed to most movies that leave your mind not even an hour after you step out of the theater. Somehow, it does not surprise me that someone sued this film’s studio FilmDistrict because she went to Drive thinking it was as ‘fast paced as one of the Fast & Furious’ movies,’ because people going in expecting no character development to go with their action are going to be vastly disappointed. Go in expecting a highly intelligently done crime thriller about a guy doing the right thing, however, and, this film will reach all those expectations & more.
5 out of 5