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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Movie Review: DRIVE

DRIVE
2011
R


"If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window. Anything happens in that five minutes, and I'm yours no matter what. I don't sit in while you're running it down, I don't carry a gun... I drive."
-- Driver



Drive is a 2011 action film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn that centers around a stunt driver who moonlights as a professional getaway car driver. The Driver (Ryan Gosling) also works as a mechanic at his friend Shannon's (Bryan Cranston) garage. The Driver meets his young but beautiful neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), who lives alone with her son while her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) is in prison. The two forge a relationship until Standard comes home, indebted to a couple of mob thugs who helped protect him while he was incarcerated. They tell Standard he needs to rob a pawn shop, and the Driver offers his help out of his affection for the family. However, things go terribly wrong during the heist, and the Driver soon finds himself pit against big-time mobsters Nino (Ron Perlman) and Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks).

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't entirely sure what type of film I was going into as I entered the theater today. I had seen the trailer, but I couldn't tell if I was going to see an action film or a more dramatic piece. The final result was actually a splendid blend of the two. I actually found that Rottentomatoes.com, the online review aggregate, offered a well-stated critical consensus: Drive is a "hyper-stylized blend of striking imagery and violence" that "fully represents a fully realized vision of arthouse action." I honestly don't think I could've said it better myself. There's just something about the look and feel of this film that's just a little bit different than your typical mainstream flick.

The screenplay itself is actually rather fantastic, to be sure. There's a lot of aspects to the story intersecting throughout the film. In a way, there's a lot of intersecting genres as well. We have the crime aspect of the story that dominates most of the film, but we're also getting a little bit of comedy here and there, and you can't deny the romantic storyline as well. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's something about how the film is written that sucks you into the movie almost immediately. The characters are well-fleshed out, and the actual story keeps you guessing until the final credits role. That's the best type of film.

One of the other strengths of the film is the level of the cast's performances. Gosling is a revelation in the lead role. For most of the film, he keeps himself incredibly reserved, never changing his demeanor in the slightest. As the film continues to progress, however, his fa├žade starts to crack, but he soon regains his composure. It's truly a brilliant performance. Some of the supporting characters are equally talented. Brooks is a revelation as the film's central villain, and even Cranston, Perlman and Isaac make their mark in their limited amount of screen-time. The cast is simply fantastic.

However, the film's real strength lies in its level of direction. I don't often talk about the choices a director has to make, mostly because I don't completely understand the entire directing process. All of the behind-the-camera stuff is a little bit confusing for me, which is why I generally only talk stuff like the screenplay or the acting. Still, there's something different about the feel of this film. I almost felt like it should've been from the 1980s rather than 2011. It's an arthouse film of the highest order. Even the violence and gore seems tastefully done, and that's a tough thing to do here in the 21st century. So I have to give a lot of credit to director Refn for the work he put into this film. Simply astounding, I must say.

Still, I wouldn't quite say that Drive is for everyone. It's very quiet for an action film, and although it's a more easily accessible arthouse flick, any arthouse film is going to block some viewers from being able to access it. However, if you can find a way to get into the film, I know you'll be in for quite a treat.



Movie Review Summary
Grade: A
2 Thumbs Up


Rankings

Best All-Time - #94
Best Drama - #34

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