After a few days of basking in the glory of the immensness that was Drive, I have found a few words to describe what is by far the best film I’ve seen this year (yeah yeah, so far).
If you’ve been reading Split Reel for a while, it comes as no surprise to you that I adore Ryan Gosling (read Split Reel’s close-up on the guy here). Adore him, to the extent that I am hair away from officially announcing him as my favourite actor at the moment. So when I heard he might retire (Read the HuffPost f.e.) I was shattered (wow am I exaggurating or what!). After seeing Drive that feeling became even stronger. I mean this is a guy who singlehandedly (well, with the impeccable help Nicolas Winding Refn and Hossein Amini and Ron Perlman and and…) raised the level of film for 2011.
Drive, tells the story of a stuntdriver by day, get-away car by night, Unnamed, who falls in love with his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan). Irene’s thug husband is released from jail, but as he owns money for protection, the Driver offers to help him rob a pawnshop. Of course, things go wrong an Irene’s husband is killed in the process, a crime that turns out to be of a much grander scale than any of them supposed.
With the story being the straightforward one last heist – heist goes wrong – revenge ensues (of course mixed with strippers and romance) Drive wouldn’t work as well without the great writing; it’s witty, gritty and unusual, as Driver is not the most talkative character in the books. The usual faux-funny puns are missing, as Drive shows how action can be built up to a level that is both visually masterful and appealing to intellectual audiences, of both genders.
(A friend of a friend just told me that I didn’t get Transformers because I’m a girl, but I firmly believe in the appeal of genre action, when it’s done smart. Action is underappreciated, mainly because of the rotten apples like Michael Bay, and for me it has cross-gender appeal as well.)
Cinematography-wise Drive rivals this year’s frontrunner, Tree of Life, by mixing elements of noir, arthouse, Hitchcock and modern action. As every frame lingers for just the right amount of time, the lights, the atmosphere becomes tangible and elevates the storytelling.
Ron Perlman delivers one of the best gangster villains of recent years as Nino (BTW if you’re not watching Sons of Anarchy already, you should, it’s immense), and Bryan Cranston proves yet again his range as he plays Shannon, Drives comrade and partner in deceit.
For me this is the final proof of Refn’s magnificience (is it just me or are Nordic directors really shining through this year?); after Bronson and the Pusher trilogy there is no question that .. I’d like to say we have a new QT in our hands but I wish to be fair to Refn, and let him have his niche, because, what a niche that is. Refn capability of bringing in a potentially brilliant actor (Mikkelsen, Hardy and now Gosling) and moulding them, shaping them into a very distinct, independent character, inseperable from the actor is unbelievable. He seems to give time for actors to do what they do in subtle ways, and that is to act. It’s rare that action gives space for emotion, especially when it’s illusive, indistinct and inferred.
Refn seems to have slowed down: Drive is unravelled and uncomplicated, and in its straightforwardness, no bullshit approach it brings what it’s supposed to and more. An instant classic that rivals Scarface.
10 / 10
You Will Like Drive If…
– arthouse action feels like an intriguing concept.
– you’re sick of mindless action.
– you don’t mind brain explosions.