Review: Drive

I was lucky enough to attend a VERY advanced screening of Drive this week.  It was pretty early in the morning so it was one of those “this better be worth it” moments but boy am I glad I dragged myself out of bed for it.

Drive is easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year which is saying something as I’ve not watched a whole lot this year and the films I have seen have been good ones.

Based on a novel, the premise is straightforward enough – a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver becomes unwittingly involved in a heist that goes badly wrong in a bid to help out a neighbor.  He is played brilliantly by Ryan Gosling who up until recently I hadn’t really paid attention to especially since he kind of dropped off the radar for a bit post-The Notebook fame.  After watching his performance in this film though, he is definitely one to look out for.  You certainly see a completely different side to his acting abilities here, as he plays a much darker character.

Although simple in premise and linear in storytelling style, visually the film is “exciting” because it is executed with so much thought and skill.  Everything just made sense and had it’s purpose; pacing was definitely a key element that drove the film and I felt Nicolas Winding Refn, the director nailed it.  One of my favorite scenes was the opening sequence where you follow Gosling’s character like an invisible passenger on a routine job in the getaway car.  Very cat-and-mouse-esque – the build up throughout the sequence was excellent, so much nail-biting tension!!  Just like the robbers in the backseat, you are taken along on this ride and as he is feverishly trying to evade the police you are kept at the edge of your seat; will he escape, will he get caught?  I thought the cuts between the interior and exterior of the car were well timed and added to the intensity and the suspense of the “chase”.

Gosling’s character – who is unnamed – doesn’t speak much throughout the film.  You get the impression that he is more of a spectator in life.  He only speaks when spoken to and you get this sense that he is a troubled person with a tainted past.  This requires a lot of restraint in an actor’s performance which I felt Gosling did remarkably.  In my opinion, the mark of a really good actor is someone who is able to still bring forward their character’s story and personality even with the absence of dialogue.  There are many scenes in this film where he doesn’t say much, or anything, but you still know exactly what is going on, or what he is feeling, because Gosling manages to skillfully convey so much through subtle nuances in his face and body language.   I remember this scene between him and the neighbor (played by Carey Mulligan) – it was dead silent between the two of them for a good 30+ seconds and although it looked deceivingly like the pair were not putting in any effort acting-wise, they managed to perfectly create that awkward tense silence between two strangers just getting to know each other.  The shot was taken over Mulligan’s shoulder so you don’t see her face, just Gosling’s; the expression he had on his face was priceless; very subtle but completely relatable to anyone who has ever been in this situation before (Lord knows I have!) – so awkward but so perfect for that exact moment in the film.

Christina Hendricks of Mad Men fame makes a guest appearance in the film – a nice touch.  If you’re used to seeing her as the sexy and always-well-put-together Joan Holloway, you are in for a surprise as she plays a VERY different character in this film.

I don’t really want to say much more because I feel I will not do it justice.  All I will say to conclude is this: Drive is a rather ugly story but told beautifully.  Not beautiful visually but beautiful cinematically.  It’s edgy, disturbing and entertaining all in one.  Ryan Gosling plays a very interesting “more than meets the eye” character – an unlikely hero –  narrative pull aside, I feel Gosling’s character is a significant factor to what makes the film so intriguing.  If you appreciate a good suspense thriller and can stomach a good amount of violence, you need to see this film when it opens in cinemas in November.

Whimsical Banana rates Drive:  5/5 tasty bananas!

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