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Saturday, October 29, 2011


A stunning, breathtaking, and intriguing character study that is nothing less than a work of art.

Amongst all the films coming out in the fall, the least I expected to be a breakthrough was Drive. The initial trailers did it no favors, bringing up memories of mediocre and generic action movies with similar names and starring Dwayne Johnson or Vin Diesel. Having watched few of his films and not enjoying the ones I have, I had no reason t believe that Ryan Gosling would be any exception to this list of “I’m doing this because I’m getting paid,” Hollywood actors. Fortunately, I was in for a surprise.

Drive is a very “art house” film, and therefore one that was not in for a success with the mainstream audience from the get-go. For a movie with its title, the premise isn’t exactly what you would call predictable. Gosling is the protagonist here, and a part time stunt driver part time getaway expert living in Los Angeles. He aids anyone who is in need for a way to escape a situation, most cases being criminals. Gosling gives them five minutes of his time to get them as far away as possible from the crime scene before dumping them on the street and resuming his life.

He is a quiet fellow, and also an isolated one – as a matter of fact, he is a strange one. It is clear from the beginning that someone so committed and comfortable with such a bizarre lifestyle is in no way normal. Gosling meets an always excellent Carey Mulligan, who plays Irene, the young wife of a criminal living alone in the apartment next to Gosling’s with her young son while waiting for her husband to be released from jail. She and Gosling develop a relationship, and Gosling soon discovers a much more interesting and enjoyable life from his own – until, of course, Irene’s husband comes back from imprisonment.

Drive is a bizarre movie, but it is handled in such an artistic way that it somehow all works very well. It’s a film that appeals just as much to the senses as it does to the imagination and the mind. The cinematography is stunning; a seductive color scheme paired with a collection of elaborate and impressive shots make for a visual movie that is if nothing else a heavy dose of eye candy. There are sequences after sequences of slow-motion shots, aerial pans and handheld camera angles – a little bit of everything. The unorthodox soundtrack consisting of electronic-pop is one of the film’s most surprising and effective attributes, creating an almost cathartic atmosphere and a hypnotizing pall.

Ryan Gosling is, much like many aspects of this movie, an unconventional choice for the lead, but for one reason or another, he is able to play his character with wondrous ability. The way he portrays the protagonist in such a silent yet resonating manner is astonishing, and his creation of such an intriguing character is one of the movie’s most notable successes. He takes the few lines of dialogue he is given and delivers them with perfection, but what is most impressive is how he is able to make a simple facial expression or movement so expressive yet subtle.

Carey Mulligan is wonderful once more in a role that is perhaps just as subtle as Gosling’s but with a sincere sweetness and likability that fits in with the movie’s strange believability. One of the greatest pleasures is Bryan Cranston’s incredibly convincing performance as Gosling’s boss. The acting seems effortless, yet somehow Cranston brings an inexplicable sense of sincerity and charisma to his character.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn makes several interesting and new choices in this film, both in its technical and story-wise aspects, and the great accomplishment here is that they all work. This is a film that relies on little dialogue to movie it along, but rather on the emotions emitted by its actors and aesthetics. The result is a stunning, breathtaking, and intriguing character study that is nothing less than a work of art. The fall movie season has barely kicked off, but Drive is already amongst the best films of the year.