Drive, 2011 – Understated Filmmaking At Its Very Best
It’s likely that if you’re reading this review you’ve already seen Drive; a film full of ingenuity and originality, one that stuck in the minds of cinema-goers for some time following its release. There are myriad ways in which Nicholas Winding Refn’s masterpiece leaves a lasting impression. From the eclectic, nostalgic score to the punch-you-in-the-face violence, Drive has an endearing quality despite the underlying brutality and the hard-to-crack impassioned characteristics of Ryan Gosling’s The Driver. Having said that, these are the refinements that allow Drive to transcend a particular mood – a feeling that evolves and changes from viewer to viewer, but one that evokes questions of morality, ethics and life choices. Aesthetically Drive looks as though it could of been released in the 1980’s with its simplistic set pieces and mise en scene; as an entire piece the various components come together to make Refn’s feature an entirely contemporary movie.
The main talking point following the release of Drive was Ryan Gosling’s nail-biting performance as this character who is seemingly impossible to read. The Driver is passionate but somewhat psychotic, with a malevolence that hangs uncomfortably in the air – when will he turn, and who will bare the brunt of it? Gosling adopted this antihero almost silently, yet so memorably. He went on to play another quietly haunting role in Refn’s art-house film Only God Forgives, this didn’t, however, inspire the same kind of reception from its audience. The Driver, the titular character of the film, is on the brink of losing any shred of humanity he still encompasses, there are two people who can save him from becoming completely engulfed in a life of violence and gangsters – Carey Mulligan’s Irene and her son Benecio (played by Kaden Leos). Said gangsters are led by Ron Perlman; an actor of diverse talent yet one who is so comfortable playing the antagonist. As Nino, Perlman channels a barbaric streak that slowly simmers throughout the film up until the moment in which the unspoken cruelty becomes visually grim (it’s these scenes that distinguish Refn as a filmmaker unafraid of challenging his audience).
Categorised as neo-noir, art house, crime and drama (the list could go on to include romance with Mulligan and Gosling sharing a sizzling on-screen chemistry that simmers in the background) Drive is genre busting at its very best. Adapted from the 2005 novel of the same name written by James Sallis, penned by Hossein Amini and with cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel, Refn and co’ collaborate to ensure the feature stays clear of clumsy criminal underworld cliches and a formulaic narrative that can be called from start to finish. The Los Angeles setting is refreshing too. With a gritty, moggy look on the eyes and a juxtaposition of The Driver‘s life on and off set, the locale is as pivotal to the story in the way that Mulligan and Bryan Cranston are, just as Gosling’s dialogue delivery is.
Whether you’re going into the film from a new perspective or you’re a returning viewer already aware of just how important the movie is within the world of cinema, Drive is a fresh watch each and every time you set your eyes upon it. Cinematic genius that’s stripped back and unforgettable. It made Gosling the respectable star he is today and set the tone for the films that have followed, but yet viewers still return for more of Nicholas Winding Refn’s incomparable feature that sparkles like a fresh penny.