Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Some Heroes Are Real.
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Written by: Hossein Amini
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Kaden Leos, Russ Tamblyn.
Running time: 100 min.
With a title like Drive, you'd instantly expect it to be filled with car chases which coincidentally have guns involved and then the cars explode and this is what we call entertainment. Some lady thought that and went as far as to sue the makers because it wasn't like Fast & Furious. She is silly. Drive is the kind of movie that happens slowly, yet realistically. You don't expect one person to possibly go through lots of car chases and explosions just because they're mildly talented at driving a car, right? No. Drive follows the unnamed Driver (Ryan Gosling), who is a Hollywood stunt driver by day, and moonlighting as a getaway driver for robberies by night. He falls for his neighbour, Irene (Carey Mulligan), who has a son and a husband in jail. Her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac) gets out of jail, and it turns out that trouble has followed him so he asks the Driver to help him out with a routine robbery. As it goes wrong, the Driver discovers that there's a bag of money at stake and there are some gangsters after Irene and her son, who the Driver is keen to protect.
The pacing of Drive offers us a thorough look at the events that correlate to make this huge mess that the Driver finds himself in. That is the best asset of the film. It relies on the atmosphere more than the thrills and the stuff that is in your face, and asks you to realise the situation in real life rather than just a form of entertainment. From the very beginning, we are shown the Driver providing the getaway car for a robbery, and as the police chase him, he exudes calm. A calm which is both frightening and badass. As a man of very few words, the Driver is an excellent character, running rings around the usual men we see leading action films. Ryan Gosling plays against his usual charismatic persona, and, as per usual, he is amazing. He makes use of a virtually empty character and capitalises on that emptiness, instead of just being a hollow figure. The large majority of the success he has in his performance is either the fact that he is just staring, exuding calmness and emptiness, or being terrifying so he can get some answers out of people. And even then, he is still somewhat calm. In another actors hands, they could run the risk of either going over the top or have to replace themselves with a cardboard cut-out because that would do a better job than them. But with Gosling, everything is perfect, and nothing hurts.
The thing I loved the most about Drive, though, was the direction from Nicolas Winding Refn. Admittedly, I wasn't a fan of Bronson, but loved the work he did in that film. In Drive, though, he creates a heavily styled atmosphere with a brilliant soundtrack filled with 80s Pop to match. He uses slow-mo in some sequences to such a great effect that I overcame my problems with the device. He lingers on the characters to allow their emotions to be fully realised. He directs the car chase sequences with patience so we don't have to see it through lots of cuts. It is slick filmmaking, bringing American action to European arthouse and blending them in a way that too few films have achieved. On the whole, there is very little violence in this film, but when it does come, it is often unexpected and extremely graphic and unsettling. And what is even better? The lack of guns. There isn't much gun-fighting in this film...everything is done by human hands and the normal weapons they can get from anywhere (like a fork, or a hammer and nail), which makes everything more frightening. And, as for the elevator sequence...wow. Well done, Nicolas Winding Refn. If only he could get nominated for Best Director this year.
As for the acting, Gosling leads a great ensemble with some great performances across the board. It is an interestingly casted ensemble, too. On one end, we have British actress Carey Mulligan, who is perhaps best suited to playing intelligent yet naive girls from another era, playing the wife of a criminal and the mother of a young son. Then we have Albert Brooks, a comedian, playing a corrupt businessman. Christina Hendricks makes an appearance as Standard's partner in the big robbery who isn't all she seems, even though her claim to fame is for period drama Mad Men and supporting roles in comedies like Life as We Know It and I Don't Know How She Does It. We have Ron Perlman taking a break from straight-to-DVD schlock, Oscar Isaac adding another interesting choice to his rather scattered filmography, and Bryan Cranston providing his ever reliable support. On paper, this cast probably shouldn't work, but there are some pieces of inspired casting here, particularly Brooks as Bernie Rose. Mulligan is a surprise, too, even if she didn't have me completely sold as a mother, but she did have me sold on the loving glances directed towards Gosling.
Drive is a rare gem, going against convention to create something that convention could only dream of. I imagine that on repeat viewings this film will only get better. But for now, I just can't get over how shockingly violent it really was, even if there was little violence in the film. I've seen a lot of celluloid violence in my lifetime, but nothing that comes close to what Nicolas Winding Refn and his Drive has in store - in such a small amount of time.
What I got: