“I give you a five minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours no matter what. Outside of that, you’re on your own. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down, I don’t carry a gun. I drive.”
Cannes Film Festival in France this year was captivated by this beautiful and violent tale of Driver (yes, that is his name) who is a stunts driver and also a driver-for-hire. He does just what his moniker suggests and boy does he do it well.
Whether you are into cars or not, you can’t help but be amazed by the opening scene which exists solely to prove that he is amazing and knows exactly how to avoid the police when escaping the scene of a robbery. The director is not merely wasting time or attempting to get commissioned for the next Fast and Furious.
Nicolas Winding Refn (“Valhalla Rising”), handpicked by Ryan Gosling, won Best Director at this year’s Cannes and you can understand why.
The camera shots are not only artistic in value but force you to get really invested in a scene with its extended silences and lingering camera shots that almost imply someone forgot to turn the camera off.
Every shot, glance and look is enhanced and makes you really connect with the characters. Refn however is not one to shy from violence and one memorable scene that combines love and violence in equal measure is one that will linger in your mind for a long time. It’s the elevator shot you see in the trailer. Driver goes from one intense moment of love and lust to, in the very next moment, beating a man so violently he crushes his skull with the bottom of his shoe.
Drive is definitely not one for the faint-hearted, the moments of violence are never gratuitious and overdone, they occur rarely in the film but with such intensity that it takes your breath away and in my case causes you to look away once or twice.
The cinematography is amazing and complements the camera shots, like the right glass of wine with a meal. The soundtrack is like the dessert (if we’re to continue with the metaphor) and definitely one of the coolest soundtracks this year.
Ryan Gosling (“Crazy Stupid Love”, “Blue Valentine”) seems to be on a winning streak with his movies lately, well picked and each bringing out a different part of his ever expanding repertoire as an actor. His performance in this is inspired. Who knew that Gosling could be so bad-ass whilst refusing to carry a gun, with long brooding stares and speaking only when spoken to? There’s enough in the little that he says and does to keep us hooked, however. We know that this taciturn, mild-mannered individual is capable of more long he does anything.
We never really get to understand the depths of his character but we see glimpses of his soul, through his interactions with Shannon (Bryan Cranston,“Malcolm in the Middle”,“Breaking Bad”) and Irene (Carey Mulligan, “Never Let Me Go”, “An Education”) and her adorable son Benicio (Kaden Leos, in his first movie).
Unfortunately, as Irene brings a new meaning to defining a friendship, Driver begins to fall for her only to discover she is married to ex-conman Standard Gabriel (Oscar Isaac, “Sucker Punch”, “Robin Hood”) who is due out of prison any day. After the initial “sniffing of each other’s butts” meeting, a partnership is formed as Driver agrees to help Standard complete one final job to pay off his criminal debts.
The premise of the story explores the vast sleazy underbelly of the LA crime scene with its gangsters, played to perfection by Ron Perlman and his more suave counterpart Albert Brooks, as they find themselves in trouble after the heist in question goes horribly wrong. Driver now finds himself with a contract out on him from other gangsters baying for blood, and leads to one of the first and most gruesome deaths in the film courtesy of his accomplice Blanche (Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men”).
At the time when the cinema is being bombarded with the usual post-summer broad appeal flicks, Drive is something refreshingly unique but at the same time almost retro in feel and definitely one film you won’t forget in a hurry. It has a fantastic soundtrack, breath-taking camera shots and cinematography, as it tells you the story of one stunt driver moonlighting as a driver-for-hire who falls for the wrong woman and attempts to ingratiate himself into her good graces by doing a favour for the husband that has dire consequences.
It is a rare film that can come along and combine Hollywood with the distinct air of an art house flick, while uniquely re-telling a story we have all heard in some format or another through various films over the decades.
I heartily recommend this film, for those who can stomach the violence that is.