February 26, 2012
By Nick Galasso
Release Date: September 16, 2011
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling; Carey Mulligan; Bryan Cranston; Ron Perlman; Christina Hendricks; Oscar Isaac; and Albert Brooks
Production: Bold Films, Odd Lot Entertainment, Marc Platt Productions
Runtime: 100 minutes
Where do I begin describing Drive? Well, for starters I’d just like to say that this film is AWESOME in every sense of the word! If you take everything that made the other nine films such great films and mash them all together you have this film because really it just about has a little of everything. While with a name like Drive you might be expecting something right out of a The Fast and the Furious film containing nothing but car chases and big-budgeted explosions throughout but if there’s one thing I could not make more abundantly clear it would be that this is nothing close to movies like The Fast and the Furious. In fact there’s really only about two sequences in the entire film where driving plays a big part. The first of these two scenes is actually the opening of the film, and it’s an opening that starts the film off with a bang in one of the most superb cold opening sequences I’ve seen in a very long time. We follow the unnamed protagonist, known in the credits simply as the Driver (Ryan Gosling), smoothly and efficiently driving two thugs away from a robbery they committed in a heart-racing chase sequence that is more in the vein of Bullitt than anything too big-budgeted like The Fast and the Furious.
After this opening sequence the film is unofficially divided into two parts. The first half is more of a low-key little drama as the Driver gets to know his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son after fixing their car one day. While this is happening the Driver gets prepared for other jobs via his boss and friend Shannon (Bryan Cranston), and Shannon’s two business partners: Nino (Ron Perlman) and ruthless mobster Bernie (Albert Brooks, cast against type as mentioned here). The Driver proves to be an extremely mysterious character yet there’s so much we get from him during the first half of the film. He shows that he means very well even though he associates with some unsavory types although you almost never get a sense of real big conflict between his good intentions and his choice of associates as he approaches each situation with almost 100% confidence. One of the most interesting things about him is the fact that all of his emotions are conveyed heavily through his facial expressions rather than his words. He tells us very little through dialogue; yet one look from him tells us almost everything there is to know about him. Once all of this is established we enter the second half of the film which, without giving anything away, takes a quick dark descent into a stylized bloody little adventure that even almost puts some of the brutal sequences in Super to shame. What I applaud most about the second half is the fact that throughout the film it never once approaches blockbuster-style action sequences. Instead the film takes a very low-key approach presenting us with a seemingly quiet scenario at one moment and then in one swift motion belting out something brutally violent. All the while the film boasts its superb visuals always taking the time out to present even some of the most gruesome of images in the most beautifully shot manner. It never feels jarring when doing so, and you never once feel disengaged as the film takes you on its dark and truly wild ride.
So yeah, I’d like to think this film has everything going for it – a top-notch cast, thrilling action sequences matched with a great musical score, and excellent visuals. You put all these together, and you have my favorite movie of 2011.