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Monday, September 26, 2011


How does Ryan Gosling do it? The man is in front row to be my hero of 2011. His acting talent grows ever more intriguing and varied with each role he undertakes and he has a great eye for picking fantastic parts in great films. Blue Valentine  is quite possibly one of my favourite films this year, this week he is in two notable release (the other being Crazy Stupid Love) and with George Clooney's The Ides of March garnering serious oscar buzz for later on in the year the mans star wattage shows signs of growing ever brighter. Hands in the air, I have a serious man-crush on the guy. However here he achieves greater acclaim for making a quilted sports jacket with a gold scorpion on the back while mysteriously chewing a tooth pick look like just about the most stylish thing you may see all year. Drive is for all it's hints of loneliness and existentialism is far more concerned with smooth and pretty surfaces. Like Gosling's unnamed character, the film might have torrents of emotion running underneath, but it rarely lets them out. Unless to cave someone's head in that is. Drive might be ultimately shallow and even perhaps contrived at times in it's storytelling but when everything is handled as well as it is, it's hard not to fall in love with it's arthouse/action stylings. Dutch director Nicholas Winding Refn (him off ultra violent and questionably pretentious fare like Bronson or Valhalla Rising) deserves applause for delivering stale plot threads and characters through anything but standard means. Through every frame, the film brims with gorgeous images and subdued, yet vibrant colours. The story goes that upon Gosling and Winding Refn's first meeting, the heavily medicated director, recovering from a cold, burst into tears in a flood of inspiration at hearing REO Speedwagon on the radio. This was their 'Driver'. A lonely guy who drives around on his own all night listening to 80's pop music. True to his word, Drive is the perfect marriage of 70's/80's car chase 'heist gone wrong' thrillers, updated with a cool indie sheen. And it's all breathless, adrenaline inducing stuff.

From it's credits of retro indie beats mixed with pink font you know there is something striking in store. Gosling plays the Driver with no Name who works as a Hollywood stuntman while moonlighting as a getaway driver at night. His life is one of solitude and never getting too close to anybody. That is until new neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) moves in with her son and the two strike up a relationship. As the Driver begins to melt his hard exterior and get close to this new family, his violent past comes crashing back into everyones lives. Along the way, supporting characters are filled out by fantastic character actors from Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston (his usual reliable self), Ron Perlman (having great fun), Oscar Isaac (about the only one who escaped from Sucker Punch untainted) Christina Hendricks (fans of Mad Men will not be happy with her limited screen time) and the usually typecast Albert Brooks. Brooks in particular is mesmerizing. Usually seen in childrens fare and nice guy roles, here he plays the psychotic main antagonist to fantastic effect. Interestingly, he is infused with layers making his violent actions all the more shocking and unpredictable. Surely an oscar nod can't be far off? And then there is Gosling. Given little to no lines throughout, Gosling gives a hypnotic and quietly powerful performance and one that is sure to be remembered in cult circles for years. Winding cast his film perfectly and everyone delivers in their respective parts. That is, apart from Mulligan. A usually fantastic talent, she is never less than entrancing in anything I have seen her in prior. Unfortunately here she seems distractingly miscast and is given little or nothing to do. One minor flaw in a fantastic film. Spontaneously prone to breaking out in hyper violence as it is in 80's synths, the film is certainly one of the more memorable you will see. Gorgeously shot and impeccably acted, Winding Refn has crafted one of the best of the year with scenes that will stick with you for a long time after. An art house version of an action film and one that is filled with as much quiet moments of introspection as it is in gun fights and car chases. Channeling the vibe of Bullitt and early Michael Mann, Drive is every bit as exciting and interesting as that might expect. While it's title might suggest revving auto parts; what it in fact refers to, is the driving force behind decisions and what consequences they may take.

Stylish, exciting and frequently adrenaline pulsing stuff, this takes the stale notions of what a crime movie might usually entail and turns them into a far more interesting and memorable experience. It may not be deep, but Winding Refn handles the atmosphere perfectly and delivers one of the sure to be favourites of the year.

"Drive" Trailer

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