Shall I just add to the never-ending praise for what is without question the best film of 2011 so far? Yup I think I will cause there certainly is nothing preventing me. Ever since this movie premiered at the Cannesa Film Festival back in May of this year, the reviews had me so interested and curious as to what we were in for. Not to mention the fact that its director Nicolas Winding Refn is responsible for one of my favourite movies ever called “Bronson” which I’m sure you’ve all heard of by now (Tom Hardy rules!). When someone asked me the other day what my overall opinion of “Drive” was, I basically said that it is without question the greatest art-house action film ever conceived. If you’re a young aspiring director out there looking to see how an amazing film is made, “Drive” is your one-stop class.
The story itself if you haven’t heard already revolves around a young guy who is a professional stunt driver for movies by day but also pulls of jobs for thieves at night as an escape driver. You see his moonlighting job first thing at the beginning of the film which to me is one of the most realistic and thrilling sequences ever committed to 35 mm film. After we’re introduced to his night life, we immediately see his professional stunt driving work during the day and are introduced to the way he is around every day people as well. He’s a very quiet character who has a big heart but at the same time remains a mystery as to where he came from or what he wants to do with his life. Soon after we meet Irene (played Carey Mulligan) and her son who he slowly befriends over time despite his quiet and private life. Soon he learns that her husband will soon be out of prison but unfortunately he owes money to dangerous people for the protection he received while there but can’t pay up. These men then threaten Irene and her son if the husband can’t pay and boy does that make Gosling’s character angry. The rest you’ll find out when you see the movie cause it only gets better from there.
Now I could easily write 10 paragraphs about the number one aspect of the film and that is the acting. First off I’ll say that I see at least two Oscar nominations for acting in this film and who they belong to I’ll explain in a minute. One art form that has been lost over the years in films that has been given a new life in “Drive” is the art of not talking. There are several scenes throughout this film where the actors are only watching and reacting to eachother’s facial and body movements. There’s barely a line of dialogue in these scenes yet there doesn’t need to be. You can tell what they’re trying to say to one another and this is primarily handled (flawlessly I might add) by Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan in their scenes together. First off I must say that Ryan Gosling (my fellow Canuck who was born 20 minutes from my house) has solidified himself with this film as not only as a potential action star but also as an dramatic presence. You feel at peace and safe as the audience whenever you see him appear on screen no matter the situation. Gosling’s character remains as much a mystery to the audience as his name which is never revealed throughout the film. He is simply only referred to as “the kid” or “the driver”.
This aspect makes him very unpredictable as we don’t know what he’ll do or how bloody things will get. Gosling owns this role hands down and sports one of the most ridiculously over-masculine white satin jackets ever with a creepy golden scorpion on the back. You know what though, it friggin’ works on him and his character and I guarantee that his look will become an action-hero staple for many years to come. Ryan will undoubtedly be looking at a Best Actor nod next year cause if he doesn’t, he’ll be coming after voters wearing leather gloves, that jacket and a hammer.
As for the supporting cast, they just make everything even better than it already was. The lovely Carey Mulligan as I mentioned plays Irene and she’s wonderful as the shy and sweet mother of a little boy who’s father is in prison but will soon get out. She takes a strong liking to the mysterious driver and as the audience you feel so sorry for the situation she’s become a part of with her son as she simply had no choice in the matter. This is one of Mulligan’s strongest performances to date even though it might seem very subtle but that’s what her character is, quiet and sweet. Her chemistry with Gosling is immense and so believable and it shows so well on the screen.
When it comes to that second Oscar nomination that I mentioned though, that has been saved for the great Albert Brooks who plays the main baddie of this story. When you think of Brooks, you always think media like “The Simpsons” or “Finding Nemo” or everything else that’s fun for the whole family. This time though he does a 180 and gives one of the most villainous performances I’ve seen in many years. He plays a west coast mob leader named Bernie Rose (his last name is the exact opposite of his personality) and when we’re first introduced to him, you forget he’s Albert Brooks and just see this charming yet brutal son-of-a-bitch who will either shake your hand with a big smile and wink or slice your neck open with a straight razor and not even blink. He’s about as unpredictable as Gosling’s character which makes him so much fun to watch. The thing about his character though is he tries his best not be a cold-hearted bastard as he genuinely wants to be a part of something good in his life. Unfortunately the circumstances don’t allow for it and he has to be the bad guy to make things right. Brooks commands the role and I’ll flip a lid if he’s not nominated next year. Make it happen Hollywood.
Also supporting we have the badass Ron Perlman who play’s Bernie’s partner. Ron once again excels at playing a nasty and very creepy prick which fits perfectly for him. We also have the lovely and talented Christina Hendricks who plays her part wonderfully despite not being in the film for very long. And finally we are given the incredible talents of Bryan Cranston who plays a great character that almost plays a father figure to the driver as he’s taken care of him over the years and handles his jobs. Overall it’s quite simply one of the most breathtaking casts in recent memory and nobody weighs it down at any point.
On a technical level, the film also sports one of the most original and stunning camera work I’ve ever seen as Bryan Singer regular Newton Thomas Sigel works his cinematography. His work is magic in this film with his car chase scenes which are some of the best I’ve ever seen. It should be noted that there’s not only single frame of shaky cam in this movie as that’s so refreshing to say the least. And then there’s the music of the film. Oh my f#cking lord! When I tell you all that I love the soundtrack and orchestra sets used in this film, I’m understating it like you wouldn’t imagine. This film boasts an incredible 80’s electronic soundtrack along with beautiful orchestra pieces by Cliff Martinez that mold to the music to the film like silk against the softest skin. It made me almost tear up at times and I now have the soundtrack on order. Oh yes, I’m getting an actual physical CD, I love it that much.
And after so many paragraphs of telling you why I love this movie so much, I’ll finally wrap it up. I’ll just say finally that if you want to know what this movie truly is, it’s an action thriller with a big heart and brains. If you’re expecting a balls-to-the-wall action movie, this is not the movie for you. This movie has a story, intriguing characters, tremendous dialogue and brutality beyond words (this f#cker can get violent in some scenes!). I can’t praise it enough and as of right now I’d give it Best Picture for 2011. Even though the year isn’t over, “Drive” stands out amongst the best.