In a movie that has very little dialogue, Drive speaks volumes. The movie is filled with moody lighting, and tension that boils over to intense action sequences towards the end.
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive almost seems to be a movie inspired by another great movie, Heat, and its director Michael Mann. It has the same moody feel of a city that never sleeps that is seen through the eyes of its criminal inhabitants.
I almost expected Robert De Niro to show up and give his sapient advice: Never have anything in your life that you can’t walk out on in thirty seconds.
This movie belongs to Ryan Gosling, who is so bad-ass that he doesn’t even have a name. Gosling plays The Driver, who in a great opening sequence, shows us that he not only knows how to drive a car, but that the chase that ensues with the cops in the city is well thought out and extremely well planned.
The opening car chase sequence instantly hooks you on the film, and establishes that the movie is going to be a great ride. At first, I immediately thought of that other movie franchise that involved a driver not exactly in sync with the law, but Drive is no Transporter. Within minutes of starting the film Drive had easily left The Transporter in its dust.
Gosling’s character is a Hollywood stunt driver and a mechanic at a local garage by day, but by night he lends his talents out to those that seek to rob or burglarize and make a fast disappearance. Bryan Cranston plays Gosling’s sort-of manager, Shannon, who finds him stunt work, and also owns the garage.
Gosling’s character’s story is never explained: who is he, why did he end up in such a seedy place, why did he choose to lend his talents to those making a living on the other side of the law? He is almost a modern version of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name.
Where does he come from? He just is, but as with all heroes, he is flawed, and not immune to falling in love, or at the very least, trying to help someone he feels something for. He falls for his beautiful neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan).
Irene has a little boy and her husband has been in jail for some time, and she is practically a single mother surviving on her own. Irene and Gosling’s character don’t spend a lot of time speaking, and they only kiss once in the movie, at the end. Theirs is a doomed romance, and they spend a lot of their time on screen looking at each other. But somehow it works.
I still have not wrapped by mind around it, but it works. Something about the colors, blue or golden, that Refn used to tint the shots…it speaks sadness and love, almost a Shakespearean tragedy, without words.
But of course, with the strength of Gosling’s character shining through the blues and yellows, the bad element intrudes and seeks to destroy.
Albert Brooks, in a truly chilling role, plays Bernie Rose, a mob man that controls Shannon. The dialogue that does happen alludes to a shady past between Rose and Shannon: Shannon will forever walk with a limp because Rose broke his hip.
The other bad man is Nino, played by the great Ron Perlmen, described as the Jew that owns a pizza place. Nino is the muscle who is isn’t afraid to shove his weight around, whereas Rose is seemingly the fatherly type who will talk to you and make you a deal but is really the one with the weight.
Gosling’s character tries to help Irene and gets wrapped up in her life as her husband gets out of prison. He tries to help and ends up with a worse mess than if he had stood to the side and watched the drama unfold and then walked away.
He takes his moonlighting job into the daylight and it is a set-up: Nino and Rose have seemingly double-crossed him and people end up dead. He then goes after Nino and Rose, fearing that they will retaliate against the weaker Shannon, who is like a father-figure to him.
Christina Hendricks almost plays a wasted part, a tag-along, Blanche, that goes on the last job with Gosling’s character. Perhaps her character is there to show just how far Gosling’s will go (some of his hero shine is tarnished as he pushes Hendricks’ character to tell the truth about the robbery).
Told with colors and skyline, Drive unfolds into tragedy. Of course, we, as the audience, see the downward spiral, but what makes us watch is our love of this kind of movie. Mann’s Heat brought us to this point, this style, the criminal life-style that couldn’t be more poignant. We identify with these characters, so far removed from the suburbia that grips us.
The film looks incredible on Blu-ray with the format capturing all the girt and glam of the film’s urban setting. It also comes loaded with special features that take you into the movie.
I thoroughly enjoyed Drive. It is refreshing to find within the confines of the seedy underground, art and love and strength of character.
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