Ryan Gosling, it seems, can do no wrong. Drive is a virtually flawless piece of genre-bending filmmaking that tells the story of a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver. Gosling (who plays the nameless “Driver”) befriends his next-door neighbor Irene (the Oscar nominated Carey Mulligan) and her young son Benicio (Kaden Leos). Their relationship is complicated when Irene’s husband Standard (with a nicely nuanced performance by Oscar Isaac) is released from prison, and Gosling decides to help him with a robbery to help settle some debts. When things do not go according to plan, the real drama begins to unfold. Great performances are given by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman, playing the equal parts terrifying and likeable Bernie and Nino. The cast is rounded out by Gosling’s down-on-his-luck manager Shannon (played by the always intriguing Bryan Cranston). Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks also delivers a small but memorable performance as Blanche, the beautiful accomplice to the aforementioned robbery gone awry.
It’s hard to talk about this film, and not immediately bring up Gosling’s performance. He really is one of the best actors of his generation, and Drive is a beautiful example of this. Throughout the film, he really has very little dialogue. If one were to read the screenplay, it might be hard to tell that he is, in fact, the star. Gosling says so much with a look here, a turn of a toothpick there, that dialogue is not needed in order for him to give a truly mind-blowing performance.
One major aspect of this film that cannot be overlooked is the stunning cinematography. Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel (best known for The Usual Suspects and the first two X-Men films) really makes some bold choices. One scene that comes to mind is a scene that takes place in an elevator. Gosling and Mulligan are in the elevator with a man who is very clearly in there to kill them. The scene is done almost entirely in slow motion and in close ups, as Gosling and Mulligan embrace in a passionate kiss. It is here that the lighting switches from typical elevator lighting, to very stylized flickering lighting (this kind of intense lighting is something that is used frequently throughout the film) that is not necessarily realistic, but more reflecting of the mood of the scene, which turns extremely violent.
The violence used throughout the film is something that also must be mentioned. The film starts off very slow and methodical (aside from one of the best onscreen car chases in recent years that opens the film), but once it gets moving, all bets are off. There are some very violent encounters, as The Driver begins to embody this anti-superhero (Gosling has said the this film is his superhero movie), mowing through everyone who may have ill intentions towards Irene and Benicio, becoming their protector and savior.
If you can handle the extreme violence, Drive is a must see. There are some of the best character portrayals in recent memory, some unbelievable action sequences, and Gosling’s performance as The Driver is absolutely remarkable. See Drive. You will not regret it.
Movie Review by Mike Danner