Oscar season is upon and one of the must-see movies of the season, and the whole year, is director Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest Drive. Combining everything from the Western to the modern day heist film, Drive is entertaining, meditative and shows off actor Ryan Gosling in a way never seen before!
Driver (Gosling) is a film stunt driver by day and wheelman by night. With no friends and little social life, Driver is instantly smitten by his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son. When Irene’s husband is released from prison and forced into doing one last job to protect his family, Driver offers his services. Unfortunately things go bad very quick, leaving Driver with a duffel full of money and a slew of villains out for him and Irene.
Drive is an astounding film and unlike anything that’s been seen this year. Opening with a fantastic synth track and bring pink lettering, the movie instantly throws you into an ocean of 80s-inspired cool. Even Driver’s leather jacket and driving gloves are reminiscent of a lost 80s world where Los Angeles is the center of the universe. The car chases are fantastic and Los Angeles is shot beautifully. The city becomes another part of the action as Refn doesn’t show off landmarks or the glitzy world tourists see, he shows the average streets and the darkness that permeates the city and the lives of the people who live there. As a fan of Refn’s past work, this movie loves the red stuff as the violence is shown sparingly but shockingly, being doubly effective because of how violent things become. The motto of this film is definitely “less is more.” The movie also has a great added layer of the theme of luck and fate that I’m sure students will be writing on in the new few years.
The film is not only beholden to the director but the cast. This has been Gosling’s year, but this is the role that should propel him to Oscar winning heights. His Driver is a man who has had no life. Sure he works in the movies, something most people kill for, and makes a portion out of the heists but he’s lonely. When he meets Irene and her son, he sees innocence being crushed under the criminal underworld. Gosling’s character is quiet for about 85% of the movie, but when he does talk it’s because he has something to say. His relationship with Mulligan’s character is electric as they convey all the romance through looks and one handhold that’s incredibly erotic in itself. When Gosling lets loose towards the film’s end, he’s incredibly restrained which makes you fear him all the more. Mulligan holds her own against Gosling, playing a woman who has squandered her life on a bad bet and when love comes along it ends poorly. Mulligan is so sweet and vulnerable in this film, yet she’s never a wilting flower. Albert Brooks also turns in a terrifying performance as the head villain, a man who, literally, kills with kindness.
Any problems I found with Drive are in response to how other audiences might react. At an hour and 40 minutes the pace is slow but deliberate. There’s not a lot of talking and the action beats are incredibly spaced out by long ranges of story. A few of the audience members in my theater complained that “nothing happened for a long time,” so if you don’t like slow paces you might find it boring. Regardless, the movie is astounding no matter what.
Drive has everything from violence, to romance, and a plethora of acting talent that makes it worthy of a visit any time of the day. Hopefully Gosling gets recognized for this as his role is superb!