27 Jun

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn (2011)

Ryan Gosling really can’t do any wrong. Not only is he simultaneously breaking the hearts of women (and men) on a daily basis with his stranger saving antics and that knee quivering cheeky glint in his eye, but Gosling continues to impress in whichever of the increasingly diverse roles he plays on screen. From political powerhouse to professional lothario to wet-weather amour, after Drive, Gosling can now officially add stone cold cool kid who you should never ask to hold your baseball bat.

No stranger to stylish grit, Drive is directed by Danish Nicolas Winding Refn, winning him Best Director Award and a standing ovation at Cannes. Style over substance is not usually seen as a good thing but in this so-slick-it-slides film, Drive has carved out a niche that proves that when a film is so perfectly pieced together, from its 80s B-movie opening credits, French electro soundtrack and that bomber jacket, it can be perfectly acceptable for substance to take the back seat.

So cool he doesn’t even need a name, our Driver (Gosling) is a stone faced mechanic and Hollywood stunt performer -who also moonlights as a getaway driver for the miscreants of Los Angeles. Described as neo-noir, Drive borrows heavily from the quiet dramas of the genre, only the grit and seedy side of this world is illuminated by garish neon lights and blue filters.

Unlike his smiling, cheeky alter egos, Gosling is transformed as the Driver, emotionless and alarmingly violent; it is only when he meets neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son that we start to see glimpses of the man behind the wheel, making him more human than driving machine. The relationship that develops is less a love-story and more a narrative tool to drive the characterisation of the Driver. There is never any explanation as to why he is so closed from emotion  nor is there any explanation as to why he suddenly takes an interest in Irene and her son other than she is attractive and lives locally… But I’m still undecided as to whether we even need one. All we need to know is that his passions and emotions come out when he is behind the wheel whether he is fired on adrenaline carrying out a standard getaway job or risking his life to save someone else’s.  Which, when we consider his track record and the situations his lowlife clients send him into, in this sense our Driver is a pretty emotional guy.

Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston is wonderfully cast as Shannon, the garage owner who also pimps out the Driver to the various bad guys while Carey Mulligan continues developing her portfolio of sombre damsels in distress with a past.

Drive shines a fluorescent light on the sordid and unforgiving world where anyone can find themselves on the receiving end of some frankly rather disturbing violence. Sleek beyond belief thanks in part to Kadinsky’s soundtrack and Gosling’s ability to wear the hell out of a bomber jacket, Drive is a slow ride (ironically) into L.A’s seedy underworld where the cars are fast, life is short and everyone is just trying to get somewhere better.


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