Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Christina Hendricks
Showing: Area theaters
Yes, “Drive,” Nicolas Winding Refn’s new “action drama,” stars Ryan Gosling. Yes, Gosling is cute and was in "The Notebook." Yes, the title "Drive" sounds like the succinct cousin to “The Fast and the Furious.” No, you should not see this move for those reasons.
That said, you should see this movie.
“Drive” is the story of a driver with no name (Gosling), who maneuvers stunt cars for the movies by day and drives thieves to safety by night. We first see the Driver steer a pair of criminals away from a crime scene — using both acute vehicular flair and roadrunner intellect. From here we are led to believe the Driver’s gravitas and swagger will rev him past Murphy’s Law and he'll perform awesome chase scenes for 100 minutes. But the film harnesses its depth early on, when the Driver meets Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benecio (Kaden Leos), whose father, Standard (Oscar Isaac) is soon to return from jail. When our man catches word that the Standard’s debts could send Irene and Benecio into harm’s way, he decides to help in Standard’s redemption, and Murphy’s Law makes an inside pass to assert its dominance (all hell breaks loose).
The scenario surrounding “Drive” is a testament to Gosling’s modern prominence as an actor. The movie is an adaptation of James Sallis’s 2005 novel of the same name, and the studio gave Gosling the choice of who he wanted to direct it. He went with the Danish Refn, whose arthouse violence films “Bronson” and “Valhalla Rising” polarized audiences but impressed Gosling.
It’d be difficult to imagine this film being as good — nay, great — as it is in the hands of a different director. Refn, who won Best Director at Cannes for the movie, colors the film’s action core with splashes of remarkably long shots and an arty playfulness with lighting. The exact same script (as good as it is) could have been coated in heavy metal thunder and general tactlessness with someone else behind the camera. But it’s Refn’s ability to slow the Driver’s story down to first gear that really makes it a masterpiece.
It’s hard to say this with a straight face, but this film is something of a breakthrough for Gosling. Here’s a man who’s broken through more than an acid head on the 3rd of July, but “Drive” will likely accelerate him from respected heartthrob to masculine icon. It’s fair to say that he’s making a case to join Robert De Niro, Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood in the Sacred Immortal Badasses Club. Over the past decade, he’s taken essentially no backward steps (unless you count making every woman in America fawn over him in “The Notebook” and slightly going through the motions with Sir Anthony Hopkins in “Fracture”). If enough of the right people see “Drive,” leather driving gloves are going to fly off the shelves the way Western ponchos did in 1966.
It’d be sad to see this work of art become the kind of film that critics love and middle America hates. But with so many long shots, so much graphic gore and so much silence — it’s likely to fall into that trap. Weak-stomached fans of rom-coms and mindless action are likely to walk out of the film they probably never should have walked into. But “Drive” is a movie for intelligent movie-goers, and if that’s what you are, you’ll stay in your seat, and be rightly chained to it.
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