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Drive (2011)

 

It's not even fair for anyone else - it's just THAT devastatingly GOOD.
It's not even fair for anyone else - it's just THAT devastatingly GOOD.

Genre: Neo-Noir Crime Drama

Starring: Ryan Gosling (The Place Beyond the Pines • Lars and the Real Girl), Carey Mulligan (Shame An Education)

Directed By: Nicolas Winding Refn (BronsonOnly God Forgives)

Overview: A quiet, slick getaway driver with a love interest gets into a mafia-grade mess of trouble for her.

The first time I saw Drive, I was on a month-long vacation in London in September 2011. As I travelled through subways I’d see that specific poster I've chosen above everywhere. Something clicked in me when I saw it that made me instinctively declare that Ryan Gosling was nothing more than some pretty boy and this would be nothing more than an empty pretty boy movie. For as much as I found London’s movie theaters exceptionally exquisite - seriously the bathrooms were beautiful! - I wasn’t obsessively watching movies - I was on vacation. Of course I did venture into theaters from time to time. I saw Kill List, I saw Troll Hunter, I saw Tailor Tinker Soldier Snore. And when all the new releases I wanted to see were seen, I shrugged, almost angrily, and said to myself, “Fine. Fine. Maybe Drive’ll be a little slick. This can’t possibly suck as bad as the spy Thriller whose deepest tension comes from people shuffling paper around surreptitiously - seriously LeCarré, you’re KILLING ME!”

And then, after that introductory first scene before the credits even began I remembered: Ryan Gosling is an Indie guy – Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl… you have to be talented when the bells and whistles are stripped away. And Drive, with the shiniest bells and whistles that $15 million can buy – wasn’t made at the expense of writing, of character, or of Gosling’s talents – or Carey Mulligan’s for that matter. Drive isn’t some slick getaway-driver-with-a-love interest-in-a-mess-of-trouble film – ok it is that, but it’s surprisingly far more. It’s Indie-film character study and Hollywood-plot-rich-formula blended together in a harmonious mix of beauty and depth to make a neo-Noir that I predicted would make the book and that I predict will remain in our cultural heritage for years to come.

Thats's the slick bit I was talking about.
Thats's the slick bit I was talking about.

Let me back up just a touch and give a spoiler-free intro to this masterpiece: Our Driver (Ryan Gosling) is a quiet and mostly solitary man. When we meet him, he’s doing a job as a getaway driver. The car chase that ensues is reminiscent, if not bold homage, of the one that made Bullitt famous - it’s not a high-speed thrill ride; instead, it’s a cat-and-mouse, duck-and-run game with police. We then learn about his job as a stunt driver, as a mechanic, and soon our meets his shy and cute-as-a-button neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son. They quickly become soft-spoken friends. It’s after a long and pleasant character study that a couple of plots kick in, and we get to see our Driver in action, pushing limits, getting into overlapping messes with some local mobsters and just plain old dealing – in his own way, in his own style of calm determination.

The severity of violence is one thing that sets Drive apart, but it’s not constant. But yes, when it’s violent, it’s visual. It’s the complaint I’ve heard the most about Drive. And perhaps it is a little too violent for some at parts. Still, I found those in-your-face moments of gore touched me in a way that made what our character was going through seem more dangerous because we saw it all so up close and personal. The thing I was most impressed by was the personality of our anti-hero. It’s rare to find a character so soft-spoken, especially one whose various jobs are so dangerous, but Ryan delivers perfectly.

From a script that is often quiet until it hits hard with intense dialogue, to cinematography that is – yes, I’ll say it again – slick, and a beautiful homage to its Noir roots, Drive is a perfect film that will not disappoint.

 And lots of ...uh... ROMANTIC scenes like this one.
And lots of ...uh... ROMANTIC scenes like this one.

Performance: 9 Cinematography: 8 Script: 9 Plot: 9 Mood: 10

Overall Rating: 90% (It'll Get You There)
Aftertaste:

Add some awesome faces from AMC, like Brian Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) and Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”), even you fans of Ron Pearlman (“Beauty and the Beast” Hellboy)

Yes, 2011 was a wonderful year for film, so I have some doubts about this bold, declaration, but, depending on my mood and the time of day, Drive may surpass Intouchables and Shame as my favourite film of 2011.  

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