Drive (2011)

NICOLAS WINDING REFN

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.  USA, 2011.  FilmDistrict, Bold Films, MWM, Marc Platt Productions, Motel Movies.  Screenplay by , based on the book by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Film Festivals:  Cannes 2011, TIFF 2011.  Academy Awards 2011.  Golden Globe Awards 2011.  Independent Spirit Awards 2011New York Film Critics Awards 2011.  

Ryan Gosling plays a stunt driver for the movies who sidelines as a driver for robbers during their getaways; he is also that cinematic favourite, the sexy loner. There’s always exceptions to the lone rider’s route, however, and Gosling cannot help but get sucked in when he meets a sweet waitress () with a young son. When she announces that her husband () is about to get out of prison, and the husband reveals that he is in to some bad guys for a lot of dough, there is no consideration before our hero decides to help him out by donating his road skills. Naturally, things are planned, and naturally they do not go according to plan, and it all ends up pointing back at the shady mobster ( in a surprisingly terrifying role) who was sponsoring Gosling and his mentor  in stock car races. Originality and surprise are not required by this one’s narrative considering the incredible amount of verve put into its execution: stylish visuals, an understated performance by the lead, fantastic driving stunts and some horrific violence that should be avoided by more sensitive viewers, all make it feel like nothing you’ve seen before. Director Nicolas Winding Refn, earning a deserved prize at Cannes, wisely makes no preachy statements about anything he is presenting: both sides of the moral divide are capable of pretty heinous behavior, and our desire to see one succeed over another is motivated by forcing our perspective and making the good guy prettier than the bad one. This is a deliciously indulgent way to make a movie, so it is a shame that the film’s one main missing element is such a painful one: Gosling melts the screen with his passionate subtlety, but there is no chemistry between him and his lady love.  Mulligan plays buttoned-up, brainy Englishness to perfection but her attempts to get American-sexy in films like this one and Shame have so far fizzled. She can hold herself up on screen without embarrassing herself, but the protagonist’s no-holds-barred passion for her is a mystery as she is not particularly charming or interesting. That said, this only keeps the movie from hitting too deep: with its glorious shots of driving at night against the neon lights of Gosling’s souped-up rides, this one rides on the surface with such panache that it veritably glides, and it is never less than mesmerizing.

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