2011, 100 minutes
Rated R for strong brutal bloody violence, language, and some nudity
Starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, Drive is, simply put, a work of cinematic art. It is also the best picture of the year so far along with Tabloid. What do these two films have in common? They are both indie films. And Drive shows what a great director and cast can do with the action genre indie-style. Everything from the lighting, music (from Cliff Martinez, a name to look out for as he also did Contagion's music which was very different and original), and the camerawork is near perfect. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (Cannes Best Director Winner) does a great job finding the right approach with the material. He goes for a minimalistic style, which fits the material and Gosling's performance like a glove.
Ryan Gosling, in another fantastic performance, plays The Driver to minimal and maximum effect. He says (and everyone else for that matter) very few words, but the viewer knows what is going on inside him due to his facial expressions. When conversing with Irene (Mulligan), a woman with whom he has fallen in love with, he does not say much, but we can see the love and happiness (two emotions rarely shown by The Driver in this film) flowing through him as a little smile appears on his face.
Gosling, an actor who has shown his range of talent in films such as Lars and the Real Girl, Half Nelson, Crazy, Stupid, Love, and Blue Valentine (my #2 favorite film of 2010), demonstrates that he can still do more than already shown with The Driver. I’m quite glad to see that he is catching on with audiences as he has had at least three film releases this year (Crazy, Stupid, Love, The Ides of March, and Drive).
Refn, a director known for his violent arthouse films, Valhalla Rising and Bronson proves that he is a director to watch out for. In this film, he goes for lighting that evokes the softness of classic Hollywood noir and the colors of modern-day L.A. He films everything with grace. The action scenes, many of which are in slow motion, are extraordinarily shot and have enormous tension built up before exploding.
Cliff Martinez’s score has a very electric feel to it along with a string of ‘80s europop songs. These songs give the film a very European feel which suits the sleekness of the film wonderfully. His original compositions are very simple, but convey the mood and rising tension of each scene. They are electric and alive and greatly add to the film as a whole.
Drive’s action scenes, though few, are insanely intense due to the fact that they are very naturalistic (no blasting music, gunshots, or explosions). One never knows when someone will be killed or seriously maimed. Something could happen out of nowhere. These scenes (as mentioned before) are mostly in slow motion, an effect that if overused (as in Watchmen) can become melodramatic, but if used right, as in this film can add to the overall effect. One gets to savor the action and gets to really feel and see the savagery and violence being shown. Though brutal, Drive’s violence feels natural as it just happens as a part of the story and no big deal is made. The slow motion adds to the naturalistic effect as you see everything unfold as in a ballet. One gunshot here, another there gracefully and slowly hitting the target, and then it is over. Michael Bay needs to take a hint from Refn.
Overall, Drive is a masterpiece of modern cinema, but be warned, this film is not going to be for everyone as it essentially an arthouse film and does not have a lot of action or dialogue (as mentioned before). It is also the most violent film (aside from The Devil's Double) that I have seen that has come out in 2011. If you are up for a film such as this, by all means, go see it!