PLOT: Ryan Gosling plays a man simply known as "Driver." He is a Hollywood stunt driver by day and criminal at night, he never carries a gun, and he will offer a set time as to how long he’ll wait for the robbery to take place. When the money and the men are safe in the car, he takes off and gets the hell out of dodge. Things do however get complicated when he gets involved with his pretty neighbor and her family, including her husband who has just been released from prison. Driver soon takes a job after this family he has come to care for is threatened, reluctantly he gets caught up with the most dangerous mission he has ever set out to do, all to protect the innocent.
REVIEW: Nicolas Winding Refn said he was inspired by Grimm’s Fairy Tales when making his latest feature DRIVE. While the story of a stuntman who occasionally drives a getaway car after a robbery may not seem as such, you certainly get the correlation when you see the finished film. There is a dreamy, haunting quality that weaves its way through Drive that is unlike other heist movies. It is a sense of beauty that carefully tucks in the violence and horror that is lurking just around the corner. It is an original love story that feels doomed from the very beginning. From out of the quiet, the darkness escapes leaving its audience white-knuckled and stunned.
Fresh off his stunning work in BLUE VALENTINE, Ryan Gosling finds himself behind the wheel as “Driver.” He is a Hollywood stunt performer by day and a criminal by night; all the while he is keeping to himself. Soon however, he is drawn to his beautiful neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan). Irene is married with a husband (played by Oscar Isaac) in prison and she has young son to take care of. She finds a reassuring decency in this mysterious young man that happens to live next door. When her husband is released from jail, Driver finds that Irene’s beau is in jeopardy. He makes the decision to take on a job to help protect the family he has grown accustomed to.
Drive is Nicolas Winding Refn’s masterpiece. While some of it may feel familiar, especially looking at THIEF (1981) starring James Caan and THE DRIVER (1978) starring Ryan O’Neal, the director gives it his very own compelling persona. Refn brings the city of Los Angeles to life, with one of the most spectacularly shot features this year. Whether it is the imagery of massive buildings with a reflection of a series of street lights or the harrowing racing sequences, Refn and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel paint a magnificent portrait of LA, in essence the city becomes a character in itself. The chase sequences are especially thrilling considering “Driver’s” composed intensity as he sits behind the wheel.
What really makes Drive stand out is the marriage of violence and character and music. The soundtrack features a variation of dreamy pop tunes that – much like the movie itself – are drowned in innocence and techno pop. It is a strange and exotic marriage of music that feels reminiscent of something David Lynch would offer. The surprisingly upbeat “A Real Hero” by College somehow feels perfect in this turbulent world. The hypnotic score by Cliff Martinez also gives Drive a bit of an edge. It is rare that the soundtrack and score feel as vivid as it does here. This is true beauty when it comes to the music.
As far as the violence is concerned, while it may not be as horrific as you may think, it sure as hell sneaks up on you at all the right moments. One sequence finds Driver protecting Irene. Once he realizes this stranger on the elevator with them has a gun, he goes into predator mode. In this boxed in space, Driver attacks the man and does some serious damage to his skull. This moment also feels considerably familiar to WILD AT HEART and what Sailor does to protect Lula’s reputation early on in the film. This is gruesome stuff, yet it is not overpowering nor is it offensive. The violence is as much a part of the fable as it truly adds to this world on the verge of destruction.
What would be criminal when reviewing Drive is to not mention the amazing supporting cast. Ryan Gosling is absolutely brilliant - with his exotic scorpion jacket and his bottled up intensity - but Albert Brooks steals a scene or two with his vicious gangster Bernie Rose. Then of course you have the wonderfully talented Mulligan, the powerful Ron Perlman and the great Bryan Cranston all of whom fill out the cast nicely. Christina Hendricks is slightly wasted in a small role, but she does fine with what she is given. In the end, DRIVE is a smart, aggressively intense thriller with an all star cast and one of the best directors working in film today. This is one of the true MUST-SEE flicks of the year, absolutely incredible.