The Ryan Gosling vehicle (haha) Drive is a well-crafted story about a nameless stuntman and getaway driver who falls in love with his sweet-faced neighbour, Irene (Carey Mulligan), but must face denizens of darkness around and within when her husband (Oscar Isaac) is released from prison.
The story of the mysterious Driver (based on the 2005 novel by James Sallis) has been compared to that of super-heroic origin stories as he transforms over the course of the film into a crime-fighting one-man force for good, using his particular skills in driving (and violence) and compelled by his desire to protect the innocents in his life. Undeniably a gorgeous, neon-hued film, Drive starts off with the slow-burning courtship between the Driver and Irene, which consists mostly of shy glances and innocent smiles between the two attractive leads, buffered by the presence of Irene’s young son Benecio (Kaden Leos) and, soon after, her husband Standard. Afterwards, the latter part of the film is marked by intense violence as the Driver confronts assorted thugs and gangsters who threaten the safety of his lady-love. This tonal change from the first half of the film somehow works since the overall style is consistent and the settings (the scruffy, lower-class end of Los Angeles) are still the same. This tension between blissful romance and shocking ultra-violence is part of what makes Drive so fascinating to watch and it culminates in the infamous elevator scene.
Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn displays his astounding filmmaking skills right from the start, beginning the movie with a thrilling, tightly filmed car chase experienced mostly from within the Driver’s car itself. There are also beautifully framed shots of light and shadow interplay in doorways and windows sprinkled throughout the film and carefully blocked interactions between the small but talented cast (which also includes Ron Perlman, Albert Brooks, and Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston), speaking volumes with little dialogue. And, of course, the evocative, ‘80s-tinged soundtrack crafted by Cliff Martinez is one of the best and most memorable of recent films.
Rating: 5 out of 5 scorpion-emblazoned jackets