Friday, March 9, 2012

Refn and Gosling "Drive" to Greatness

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 18 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux


Drive (2011)
Running time: 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity
DIRECTOR: Nicolas Winding Refn
WRITER: Hossein Amini (based upon the novel by James Sallis)
PRODUCERS: Michel Litvak, John Palermo, Marc Platt, Gigi Pritzker, and Adam Siegel
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Newton Thomas Sigel (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Mat Newman
COMPOSER: Cliff Martinez
Academy Award nominee

CRIME/DRAMA/ACTION/THRILLER with elements of romance

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, and Kaden Leos

I kept hearing good things about the film Drive, a 2011 crime drama and action thriller starring Ryan Gosling. Directed by critically-acclaimed Danish filmmaker, Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive centers on a mysterious getaway driver who lands himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbor’s troubled husband. The good things I heard about this film turned out to be true, and it is one of the very best films of 2011.

In the film, he is only known as The Driver (Ryan Gosling), and he is a supremely skilled getaway driver for those who need to get away after pulling off a heist or robbery. The Driver is also a Hollywood stuntman and mechanic, working on both jobs for garage owner, Shannon (Bryan Cranston). Shannon wants to get involved in stock car racing with The Driver as the man behind the wheel, so Shannon brings in mobster, Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks), as an investor in this venture.

The Driver lives in a low-rent apartment building where he meets and befriends his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her son, Benicio (Kaden Leos). The Driver begins to date Irene, but she is actually married to a man named Standard Gabriel (Oscar Isaac), who is about to be released from prison. After Standard is released, he must find a way to pay back protection money that he owes to a gangster. The Driver tries to help Standard and things go bad on all sides.

Drive is a hard-edged crime thriller with a neo-Film-Noir pedigree. Those who watch it may see the influence of a lot of Los Angeles-based films, including Pulp Fiction and various Michael Mann films. There is also more than a touch of John Carpenter – from the atmospheric, 1980s synth-pop score (created by the always interesting Cliff Martinez) to the somewhat Michael Myers-like Driver. I also see this as partially a blend of Carpenter’s original Halloween (1978) and The Transporter film series.

Whatever its influences are, Drive is simply brilliant. It is cool without being slick and overly produced (like many Hollywood crime movies). Drive is more modern than retro, but it has a timeless quality that also makes it seem to be from a vague near-future. Director Nicolas Winding Refn turned in one of the year’s best feats of film directing simply by making a movie that takes so many influences and inspirations and turns them into an original vision and a film apart from the rest.

This movie has a number of good performances. Of course, Ryan Gosling is the centerpiece. At first, he may come across as flat and too cool, but he slowly unveils a great big darkness that lives just under the surface. Gosling also shows a gentle, romantic, and human side that surprisingly breaks through in the most surprising moments. Plus, Gosling creates, in The Driver, a most memorable man-of-few-words anti-hero. The Driver is another performance that shows just how much talent Gosling has.

Carey Mulligan is solid in a relatively quiet and restrained performance, but she sells every scene in which she appears and matches Gosling when they appear in the same scene. Everything Albert Brooks does in this movie seems fresh and sensational, even when he does something that a movie mobster typically does. He makes the old mobster stereotypes edgy, contemporary, and original.

Drive is a crime flick that is also a dark L.A. fairy tale. It makes violence and brutality seem as if it could be no cooler than it is in Los Angeles. I would have enjoyed seeing more action sequences with cars, but I like Drive too much to complain.

9 of 10
A+

NOTES:
2012 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis)

2012 BAFTA Awards: 4 nominations: “Best Film” (Marc Platt and Adam Siegel), “Best Director” (Nicolas Winding Refn), “Best Editing” (Matthew Newman), “Best Supporting Actress” (Carey Mulligan)

2011 Cannes Film Festival: 1 win: “Best Director” (Nicolas Winding Refn); 1 nomination: “Palme d'Or” (Nicolas Winding Refn)

2012 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Albert Brooks)

Friday, March 09, 2012

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