Movie Review: Drive (2011)

Drive (2011)
100 minutes
Rated – R
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston

Grade:  A-

Drive is a movie that takes the word “deliberate” to another level. Everything about this film is done on purpose, from each spoken word of dialogue to the characters departing in slow motion. That’s not confusing how every movie is typically done purposely by the director’s intention, but Drive separates itself from that. Every rev of the engine and every bullet being fired from a gun makes you flinch. And Nicolas Winding Refn masters the feeling of tension with what seems like a never-ending silence before the surprise. The movie did all the little things right.

Starring Ryan Gosling as a stuntman/mechanic by day and a wheelman for robberies by night, he is the mysterious man that goes by no official name throughout the movie. His best friend is Shannon (Cranston) who has been by his side at the film shoots and the garage for years. Gosling’s character is one who never says something if he doesn’t have to. He never elaborates more than just the “yes” or “no” response. When asked what he does he says, “I drive.” Any intent you have to push further is diminished from his confident glare that his answer is all you need to know.

His life takes a turn when he gets to know his apartment floor neighbor, Irene (Mulligan). Their relationship is always uncertain because of his stoic presence and her situation mothering her son and waiting for her husband to be released from prison, but there’s no doubt that a passion is begging to break through between them. But when Irene’s husband comes home, everything changes.

The film has a very retro feel from the pink-script writing to the synth-heavy pop music from bands like College and Desire, which plays into the tone of the film and comparisons between Gosling and Steve McQueen. Albert Brooks also gives a nice performance in Drive as one of the more likable mobsters I can remember.

But this is a Ryan Gosling movie and he owns every scene. It’s surprising to marvel at his growth from films like The Notebook to Half Nelson and now this. Here, he lets his eyes do most of the talking and within a few scenes, I was struck with awe about his presence. His unknown past gives reason to some of the wildly surprising aspects to the film like his unexplained toughness and his inner-struggle to engage with other people. Gosling, the actor who has given beautiful performances before, gives his unnamed character so much life with so little.

For those who like cars, action, and violence, Drive is a movie for you. But this isn’t anything like those mainstream Fast and the Furious films. This is a well-crafted and deliberately-paced story directed by a talented man with an eye for suspense and a gifted cast of actors. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who wants to enjoy one hell of a ride.

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