Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston and Albert Brooks
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Valhalla Rising)
Rated R for strong brutal violence, language and some nudity
Ryan Gosling is a Hollywood stunt man who at night moonlights as a getaway driver for hire. It doesn’t appear that he does it for money, but maybe merely for the fact that he is good at it and that he simply can. When he falls in love with his neighbor (Mulligan) the film transforms into a sweet romance that is soon to be crushed by a disturbingly violent turn of events.
When Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn won the award for best director at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, my first thought was how can a heist pic win best director. All heist pics have a twist so this one must be special. What was sold as a heist film though is far from it. Drive comes off as more of a character study with extreme amounts of action, all pulled off with furious intensity. The character arc of the driver played by Gosling manifests itself as three unique personas. There is the stuntman/risk taker driver, the romantic and then finally the adaptive, capable and calculating survivor who is capable of doing whatever it takes to make it out alive and save the ones he loves. And Gosling pulls it off beautifully with very words coming from his mouth.
Of course Gosling has some help. Carey Mulligan is great as the confused friend and love interest and Bryan Cranston, who looks nothing like his Breaking Bad character here, is a treat to watch as Gosling’s boss and criminal colleague. The most impressive performance here though comes from Albert Brooks who plays the deceptively friendly gangster and I will predict that he will get his first Oscar nomination (and possible win) in over twenty years.
But its not all roses here. While the writing and performances are all as good as it gets, I found myself getting very uncomfortable watching the movie. Not only is there an uneasy claustrophobic feeling to the pic, but the violence is so extreme and unsettling that there were times that I just wanted to look away or simply take a break. While it is getting a huge screen count and a big studio release, the film is essentially an art film in disguise. Many audiences will be turned off by the excessive violence and independent film style. Then again, many might find a film they really enjoy by accident. Overall, I’m glad I saw it, but I really have no desire to revisit it again. B