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Drive - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

NICOLAS Winding Refn’s Drive is one of the coolest films of the year. A sexy, slick, ultra-violent neo-noir thriller, it’ll likely have film buffs falling over themselves to list the films and directors that inspired it, from Scorsese to Mann, but few would probably arrive at Pretty Woman as a source of inspiration.

Refn, though, claims that the ‘twisted, dark’ fairytale element underpinning that Garry Marshall classic was very much in his mind when it came to his latest thriller. And it’s arguably this eccentric form of genius that prompted Drive‘s leading man Ryan Gosling to seek him out as a potential director in the first place. Whatever, the match is one that’s made in heaven.

Drive is an incredible film in many ways. Originally envisaged as the start of another action movie franchise, Refn and Gosling have very much subverted expectation to deliver the kind of cinematic experience that will have you swooning one minute and gasping in awe the next.

Gosling plays a character named simply ‘Driver’, a Hollywood stuntman by day who uses the night-time to make his real money as a cool as cucumbers getaway driver. His talent doesn’t so much lie in his ability to outrun the cops (although he’s a speed demon when needs be), but rather his coolness under pressure. He can outthink and outsmart the best of them – and he lives by a strict code of conduct that doesn’t allow for personal feelings to get in the way.

Things change, however, when pretty mum next-door Irene (Carey Mulligan) enters his life and he finds himself becoming an unlikely father figure to her son, while entertaining the possibility of romance.

When Irene’s husband (Oscar Isaac) is released from prison, and is menaced by hoods into repaying a debt by committing a robbery, ‘Driver’ steps in to protect Irene and her little boy, only to find himself in a hopelessly violent situation involving gangsters who want everyone dead in order to cover their tracks.

Refn’s movie does, admittedly, contain many classic movie elements but it’s the fairytale aspect that lends it such a fiercely unique identity. Gosling is Refn’s prince charming, played as a mix of Leone-era Clint Eastwood and Bullitt cool McQueen. He’s a man of few words but fiercely loyal to those he respects, even if it means getting rough and physical with women in the process.

Gosling completely inhabits him and makes the role his own, filling every scene with a quiet authority that looks destined for iconic status.

But hes’s ably supported by Mulligan, as his fairytale princess… a woman whose fragile beauty and innocence awakens feelings in him that could prove fatal for everyone concerned. She offers just the right mix of hope and sadness, trapped in a life she probably never asked for, clinging to a man she, in truth, knows very little about.

Also of note are Albert Brooks’ criminal kingpin, as charming as he is cold and despicable; Bryan Cranston, as a down-on-his-luck garage owner and friend of Driver; and Ron Perlman, as another of the hoods standing in Driver’s path.

Refn, for his part, directs proceedings in a style that pays homage to everyone from Mann to Scorsese via Friedkin while ensuring that the film maintains an identity of its own. Aided by a brilliant soundtrack (think Kraftwerk as delivered by Cliff Martinez), he creates a noir thriller vibe that is utterly intoxicating and dangerously addictive.

He also keeps viewers on their toes throughout, allowing the characters plenty of time to breathe and develop before plunging them into the thriller elements that follow. But be warned, Drive can be shockingly, wince-inducingly violent. A romantic sequence might suddenly turn horribly violent, while a lengthy verbal exchange may suddenly end in a moment of brutality that’s as quick as it is devastating for those concerned.

It means that Drive contains a rare ability to keep you on edge and guessing throughout, never certain of who will survive. The result is a film that exhilarates on just about every level and one that announces Refn and Gosling as a genuinely cool movie partnership. It’s also a movie that’s not to be missed.

Watch the trailer:

Certificate: 18
Running time: 100mins
UK Release Date: September 23, 2011