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!

Review: The King’s Speech

I have been wanting to see this film for a looong time.  Even moreso after the Oscars.   Unfortunately I have gotten WAY behind on my movies, which is ironic really, as you’d think I’d have seen everything considering I work at the cinemas…which used to be the case, but sadly not anymore.  I’ve been feeling like I’m at work all the time these past few months and so when I do eventually get my two days off I stay well away from the place!!  I try to catch a film occassionally after work but similarly, once I’m done at work I tend to just wanna get the hell outta there!!

Today I made a special trip out to Rialto Cinemas in Newmarket to catch this film as it has finished its run at Queen Street (where I work, for those of you who do not know).  I am SO GLAD I made the trip.  The King’s Speech is absolutely brilliant.  I have watched many films and because I have a very eclectic and “mainstream” taste in films, I am easy to please and tend to enjoy most films I see.

I can safely say though that The King’s Speech is not only a film I am deeming one of the best films I have ever seen (in a long time), but also one I am unlikely to forget.  As I mentioned just before, I rarely ever dislike any movie I see, but very few actually truly captivate and move me.  The King’s Speech did just that.  It held my attention from start to finish.  It is certainly deserved of the four Oscars it won – every single cateogry – and I think this film could very well go down in British film history, in my VERY humble opinion.

For those of you who do not know the premise, in a nutshell: English period drama set a few years before World War II.  King George VI (played brilliantly by Colin Firth) struggles from a crippling speech impediment but has to learn how to overcome it when he is suddenly made King following the death of his father, and following his older brother turning his back on the throne.  He seeks help from Lionel Logue, an unorthodox Australian speech therapist (played comically by Geoffrey Rush).

Director Tom Hooper does a remarkable job at telling this story.  Very impressed especially considering he has done only mostly TV directing prior to this.  The sets and locations used are amazing – you really get that sense of history and place, and the attention to detail really gave the film depth; in that two hours I was completely immersed in that world of the past, I really felt like I had gone back in time.  Casting was absolutely spot on – I have to mention that I was mighty pleased that there were 3 Harry Potter actors in the film!  Colin Firth embodied the character of King George VI perfectly; simply stunning performance, he definitely deserved that Oscar!  I was completely convinced that his stammering was for real – AMAZING.  Geoffrey Rush’s character provided just enough comic relief and I liked that Firth’s character’s sarcastic sense of humor played off very nicely against Rush’s playful jibes.  Although I can’t say much for his Aussie accent – and he’s actually Aussie!

Perhaps the most fantastic thing about the film was how the director used certain shots/camera angles and also the sets to portray King George’s sense of constriction when he stammered.  Of course this was conveyed excellently through Firth’s facial expressions and body language (vulnerable posture, fear-stricken eyes, throat constricting – it’s ridiculous how real it all looked – Colin Firth, you are a master at your art!) which Hooper further heightened through many close up shots of Firth from the shoulder up.  Eyes are really a window to a person’s soul and I felt that these close ups of Firth really helped the audience connect with the character.  This “invasion of personal space” by being so up close – which ironically you cannot do to a King, as Rush’s character points out when they first meet –  really allows you to feel his fear and experience his struggles firsthand.

Majority of the film was shot indoors, most of it noticeably being of long corridors and rooms that were small spaces.  Visually this effectively accentuated that feeling of entrapment and also I felt was intended to mirror the King’s tightness of his throat whenever he tried to speak.  Additionally I also noticed that many of the scenes were long and drawn out, taking awhile to reveal its point to the audience – this could also reflect the King and the time he takes to get a sentence out.  But this could be just me reading a wee bit too much into it – can’t help it, having studied film it’s almost second nature for me to always take note of the cinematography in a film and want to dissect it and pull any “hidden meaning” from it.

The writing was impeccable – yet another deserved win at the Oscars.  As I mentioned earlier the humor is witty and just the right amount, and most importantly, perfectly placed.  Being a drama obviously you want to tread carefully if wanting to insert any form of comedy or humor.  I felt that the humor used in this film was not so much because the director intended to give the audience a few laughs, but to give more depth and humanity to the characters, especially to King George.  Any person of royal blood – and no less British royalty – is often stereotyped as boring, stuffy and very “mechanical”.  Portraying a King that stammers, is fearful and gets angry shows that royalty are still human, however I believe showing the audience that he has a sense of humor has a greater impact as it reveals more character.

I could go on some more about this film but I think I will stop here!   In short, this film – again, in my humble opinion – is GREAT on so many levels and is definitely a must-see for anyone who appreciates a good film.

Whimsical Banana rates The King’s Speech: 5/5 bananas!