Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks
Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn
"I give you a five-minute window. Anything happens in that five minutes, then I'm yours, no matter what. Anything happens a minute either side of that, and you're on your own. Do you understand?"
For all the die-hard Ryan Gosling fans out there, if you've already seen the posters for Drive, seen the hot pink '80s font and a gorgeous Gosling mysteriously gazing from a car window, you might initially assume that this just another guy-meets girl film entwined with a few driving sequences.
You are wrong. Very wrong. Similarly, if anyone enters a screening of Drive with the expectation that they will be witness to a non-stop hour and a half of action, cool stunts and violence, they would be equally incorrect.
Refn's film drives his audience into the events surrounding an unnamed driver who, when he's not a mechanic or part-time stunt driver, works as a highly skilled getaway driver.
The opening scene is unnerving. The driver (Gosling) ominously warns the two men seated in the back of his car, preparing to rob a building, that they have five minutes to complete their task before he drives away.
While superficially this film has all the features of a classic '80s action car film, Drive takes on a greater depth, combining elements of the film noir, thriller and action genres. It is through these genres that Refn is able to combine a huge adrenaline rush with underlying raw human emotion, and literally leave you sitting on the edge of your seat.
Fans of the '80s will definitely appreciate the continued '80s references that lace the entirety of this film. Starting with the opening music that accompanies credits similar to those of Risky Business, the references just keep on coming.
Refn maintains a steady pace throughout the film and reduces conversation to a bare minimum, letting the actions of characters and '80s music take the place of dialogue. Continuing its thematic '80s references, the entire soundtrack combines '80s synthesised Europop and contemporary music. The music is used to either echo the distorted and morally conflicting situations the driver faces, or provide an ironic counterpoint to the situation. In many ways the soundtrack almost operates as a character itself, similar to the function of a theatrical chorus that comments upon the events unfolding.
The driver is also a reflection of characters such as Clint Eastwood's character in The Man with No Name. Both characters retain an ambiguity by virtue of the fact that they remain nameless throughout their films.
Thanks to my very weak stomach, I spent the best part of the last forty minutes of the film with my hands either over my eyes or my ears, but despite this it comes as no surprise that director Nicolas Winding Refn won the Best Director award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
The cast were also very well chosen, and cameo appearances from Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Oscar Isaacs (Sucker Punch, Balibo) and Bryan Cranston (Malcom in the Middle) will inevitably attract a wider audience. However, it goes without saying that Ryan Gosling is what makes this movie. His quiet, unspoken demeanor allows the audience to connect with the familiar face everyone came to love in The Notebook.
So if you enjoy suspense, love a good action/thriller, and you don't mind a bit of blood (or even a bit of Ryan Gosling), you definitely will enjoy this film.
4 out of 5