As the masterful opening sequences indicate, “Drive” is not meant to be a standard crime caper. It is a tense, passionate journey about a man who has one true talent in life.
When the protagonist Driver (Ryan Gosling) first appears on screen, he is a getaway wheelman who mostly waits for criminals to commit robberies. Before the opening credits roll, there is a brilliantly executed vignette in which a standard job is shown in full detail from beginning to end. After a chance encounter with his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), Driver falls in love with her and also starts a genuine friendship with Irene’s son.
The rest of the adventure encompasses a series of shocking events that force him to confront immoral people who embody pure evil.
Nicolas Winding Refn won the award for best director at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and it does not take long to realize why so many critics applaud his vision. “Drive” runs in the vein of something from the ‘70s and the ‘80s. Refn uses a variety of techniques that include visually stunning montages and high caliber editing to create a fervent world without taking away from the naturally paced story or unique characters.
Gosling’s character does not have much to say, but he is able to effectively convey his emotions through silence. He rarely speaks his mind, yet his eyes are so expressive that Gosling makes every subtle moment of Driver’s fear, sadness and happiness ring true.
Mulligan matches Gosling’s level of depth with a performance of unblinking authenticity.
Without going over the top, she commands the screen in her depiction of a very young mother who earns self-respect from the audience by trying not to get involved in the carnage around her.
There is a fresh romantic aspect about “Drive.” Lacking a “love at first sight” moment to suggest that Driver and Irene will be attracted to each other, the exploration of the chemistry between them is moving and is absent of any syrupy dialogue. This eventually leads to a moment of sexy liberation between the two that ranks as one of the most memorable and quirky scenes of the whole picture.
Be forewarned, there are several bursts of bloody viciousness that are crucial to the stakes at hand. The body count does not start until about a third of the way into the film, and the director is usually nice enough to give the squeamish a few seconds warning to cover their eyes before things get graphically ugly.
Does this mean that detesters of grotesque imagery should steer clear of seeing the movie? It would be a shame if that was true, because the violence is neither extraneous nor mindless. In context, it makes sense whenever a life is taken and there is so much more to appreciate in this extraordinary film.
“Drive” stands out as a cool, at times offbeat, yarn with a main character who is more benevolent than he initially seems to be. In several scenes a song plays the lyrics, “you have proved to be a real human being, and a real hero.” After the final fade out, it is clear that Driver is a bit of both.
Distributed by: FILM DISTRICT
Directed by: NICOLAS WINDING REFN
Release Date: SEPT.16