Film Review: Drive

Courtney Button & Tom Gore

Dir. Nicholas Winding Refn

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston

Ryan Gosling has been extremely busy recently, with three films out in cinemas in just over a month. However it’s his film Drive that has been getting the most plaudits from critics and cinema goers alike and is being touted as one of the best films of the year so far.

The film opens with Ryan Gosling  playing an unnamed male Driver acting as wheelman for hire to a pair of thieves. Tracking the police and a basketball game on the radio, he uses the streets, shadows and eventually a crowd of revelling basketball fans to drop off his clients and blend into the night unseen.

The film plays out in two halves. In the first, Driver and Carey Mulligan’s Irene quietly fall for each other over a series of long looks and charged silences. It is in this half that we see the Driver’s human side as he bonds with Irene’s son whose father, Standard (Oscar Isaac), is in prison. When Standard returns the film changes gear as Standard’s criminal past catches up with him and Driver helps him out in order to protect Irene and her son. However the job soon goes wrong and the long wistful looks are preceded by blasts of explicit violence,  shocking gore and shotguns  proving that the film’s 18 certificate is justly earned.

The shift in tone could have been jarring but it works well as the Driver’s violent side is conveyed through his willingness to protect Irene and her son, despite what may happen to him. The two aspects are blended perfectly in a memorable scene in a lift where, in slow motion, the Driver kisses Irene before stamping on a man’s head till his skull crushes.

If Drive has any flaws it is that the arty long looks  and frequent silences  Irene and Driver share are overplayed to the point where it stretches the credibility of the relationship, as well as the audience’s patience. Whilst Mulligan is not given nearly enough screen time to develop her character, a strange decision considering it is Irene who is the catalyst behind many of Driver’s actions throughout the film.

It’s the films expertly crafted images which will stick in the audiences mind; the driver wearing a stunt mask, framed in a window staring in at his antagonist while an operatic song soars over the top. The two hands wordlessly coming together on a gear stick and Ryan Gosling chewing a toothpick, wearing a silver jacket with a golden scorpion on the back looking effortlessly cool. The film climaxes with a well edited scene which matches dialogue and violence effectively before putting us back on the road, travelling through the night.

Those turning up to see a bullet a minute action  film with car chases thrown in after every couple of lines of dialogue will be disappointed and bored by its artistic leanings and 80’s nostalgia, but these are what make the film interesting and truly great. The eighties inspired soundtrack scored by former Red Hot Chilli Peppers drummer Cliff Martinez perfectly complements the retro style and look of the film.

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