As long as the cinema has been around, a prominent fixture in its works have been guns. More specifically, the little metal cylinders that empty out of them, who it goes into, and why. Somewhere along the way, however, the visceral impact of guns have been watered down. You don’t really feel the bullets anymore, to be honest. One of the many distinctive things about Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” — every bullet goes off like a bomb. This is partly due to the booming sound choices Refn takes. However, it’s mostly because “Drive” has a pervasive silence — dialogue is fairly rare, and when it is, it’s absolutely vital. Refn structures “Drive” almost like a game of Jenga — taking a fully developed, built tower (or in this case, film) and seeing how many elements he can remove without it falling apart. “Drive” is a film with all the fat trimmed — every beat, pause, line, gun-shot, and glance is vital. Everything – forgive the pun – drives the film forward.
Ryan Gosling is the star, as tends to be the case with most quality American cinema in recent months. Gosling is the lead character in a film called “Drive”, and so it is appropriate that in the film he, yes, drives. He has no name, nor a backstory. All we know is that he’s a stunt driver by day and criminal-getaway driver by night. After becoming involved with a woman from his apartment block, he becomes involved in a heist. Like all movie heists must, this goes very wrong. To reveal more, as the marketing campaign apparently did (I made it a point to avoid trailers for this film), would be a total injustice. Just know that some very bad things happen and a very interesting side of our Driver is revealed.
Gosling plays Driver with a slippery cool; always hinting at emotions and reactions but never betraying them until very late into the film. What leads Driver to let down his cool is actress Carey Mulligan, whose talent and unbelievable cuteness seemingly feed off one another with each subsequent film she makes. The two have a refreshing lack of verbal interplay explaining how much they love each other — Gosling and Mulligan do something much more rare. They glance. They act. Stars should try it sometime.
“Drive” may play mainly off these two, but it sports an impeccable supporting cast that add flair and personality to the proceedings. “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston is great as Driver’s mentor, and Ron Perlman as well, as Cranston’s parallel to the main villain — Albert Brooks. Brooks pulls a 180 on his traditional persona, playing a wonderfully evil, hilariously venomous man. I can’t quite spoil how he relates to Driver, aside from the obvious point that the two come into very direct, volatile conflict. Christina Hendricks is nice here. Her brains make for a unique sight.
“Drive” is not so much an action picture as it is a funky little art-house concoction, that happens to have A-list stars, gunfights and some incredible car-chases. Seriously, the opening sequence of this film is a complete nail-biter — Driver navigates two passengers/wanted thieves through a web of cop-cars and helicopters in downtown Los Angeles. “Drive” seems to be full of these brilliant little moments of either unbelievable tension, or ones of almost cartoonishly grotesque violence. Forks, boots, and window-panes are utilized in the process.
Propelled by Cliff Martinez’s atmospheric, synth-driven score, “Drive”s denim jackets, tooth-picks and hot-pink title-sequence all carry a distinctively ’80’s style, one not really used for more than atmosphere. But still — what atmosphere!
All of this font and all of these words (assuming this review reaches your hands unedited, thus far I count 611) describe what “Drive” is like, but what convinces me this film is a masterpiece is that I can’t really articulate the instinct that I get, that I KNOW it’s special. “Drive” is a film that on script, was a pure genre exercise. On screen, it’s rollicking, hypnotic entertainment. A