Since his exceptional performance in Blue Valentine Ryan Gosling has quickly become one of the most in demand men in Hollywood. All three of his films in 2011 (The Ides of March, Crazy, Stupid, Love and Drive) have all met critical and financial success. Ryan Gosling is proving himself as a perfectly capable actor and his performance in Drive is only going to increase his popularity.
Ryan Gosling, like the man with no name in a Sergio Leone's Westerns, is a nameless driver performing stunts for films by day and getaways by night for criminals. Any job, any time, The Driver (that is what the nameless Gosling is known as) is prepared to do it but he has one rule. The rule is the moment the robbery or job takes place the criminals have a five minute window they must stick to, one second over the limit is tough, otherwise The Driver will drive off without the criminals leaving them to fend for themselves.
A garage owner, (named Shannon played by Bryan Cranston) which The Driver works for, borrows $300,000 from mobster Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) to buy a stock car that The Driver will race. Meanwhile The Driver begins to build a relationship with a neighbour (in the shape of Carey Mulligan) whose husband (played by Oscar Isaac) has returned from jail and unsurprisingly is in a spot of bother with a few local mobsters. A robbery is planned (with The Driver employed as the getaway driver, obviously) but bad stuff happens and The Driver also becomes more involved with the local mobsters and their leader Nino (Ron Perlman).
Drive plays as the film noir (the mean, pessimistic dialogue) but with B movie elements (the characterisations are very B movie like) and with art house style production values. Newton Thomas Sigel shoots LA in majestic style, Matthew Newman's editing is tremendous and Nicolas Winding Refn's direction is highly stylised creating a film that any budding filmmakers should examine so they can gain inspiration in creating a wonderful and beautiful looking film. It remains a film that sparkles with its exceptional visual style that outclasses much of the competition this year but as well as the stunning visuals the movie remains entertaining but still has some flaws.
Ryan Gosling brilliantly plays a man with no name, which Irene (Mulligan) strangely never thinks to ask. The Driver is a man of little talk but plenty of action and despite the limited dialogue Ryan Gosling's performance still manages to dominate the screen taking away the plaudits from his fine supporting cast. The Driver is an anti-hero, he divulges in the dark, gritty and nitty crime underworld of Los Angeles but remains a man fighting for a worthy cause (in the shape of Carey Mulligan and her kid). The Driver is a likeable figure as he strikes up a sweet relationship with Irene and her kid but remains a character that distances himself away from the audience, his lack of talk provides very few opportunities for audiences to warm to him. The lack of any philosophical depth to the central character hinders the overall impact of Gosling's performance and the actual character. The supporting performances provide worthy support to Gosling's superb lead performance. Pearlman is great as the Jewish gangster and Carey Mulligan is likeable and sweet in her rather underwritten role despite serving as a romantic interest to The Driver.
Drive is a thriller that dials down the over the top action sequences that plagues to many modern thrillers (so much they lack an interesting narrative) and focuses itself on creating a simple yet compelling narrative that explodes with unexpected and shocking acts of brutal violence. The film is full high kinetic energy and bristles with tension and intensity. Drive is a film with very little driving (which prompted a woman to sue the film for false advertising) and it is certainly not a Transporter (some call it an art house Transporter but that would be admitting that Transporter is a good film) or Fast and Furious style car movie as the chase sequences are grounded in realism and are also supremely well made and very exciting. The film opens up with one the finest open acts of the year as we are introduced to The Driver and his smart methods of evading the cops. He is just too smart for them; no wonder his reputation precedes him.
Drive is a brilliantly made film; it may have some B movie aspects but the film is made in an art house style that works a treat and also a dose of film noir that results in some cracking entertainment. Drive may lack the substance to make it the truly great (some say masterpiece) film that some claim it to be but Gosling's impressive central performance and the Drive's visual style may make it an awards contender but for a central character The Driver is not quite interesting enough but yet Gosling does a cracking job with what he was given.