It is a brooding, quiet “action” movie with characters and an approach that many would’ve written off with disapproving remarks and disappointments. Sounds like a good candidate to be one of yours truly’s favorite movie of the year? Well, yes, it is. “Drive” starts with a car chase that was neither showered with explosions nor loud scenes. This first scene servers as an introduction to our hero, an unnamed driver (Ryan Gosling) doing what he did best. Driving. He calculates his steps meticulously, sparing the small talks, keeping the calm under pressure, and effectively carrying the task to a satisfying completion. This scene is also served as a barrier of entry. If you didn’t feel anything from this scene, you are definitely expecting a different kind of “action” than this movie has to offer. Think of last year’s “The American” and you get the idea how “Drive”‘s atmosphere, look and feel are going to be. Not for the impatient viewers who were just in for a quick respite or for a short attention span fix. But, it was also a perfect ingredient for those who seeks more than just a respite from a movie. Immerse in it, and you’ll be well rewarded.
Ryan Gosling is the unnamed driver. Where he comes from, what his story is, who were his friends and relatives are, were left untold. His only friend is probably his employer, Shannon (Bryan Cranston, from “Breaking Bad” fame). The driver works for him in his auto repair shop, occasionally setting him up as a Hollywood stunt driver, and also for rather shadier moonlight jobs as a wheelman. The driver seems a bit detached to his surrounding, he rarely talks, nor there are many expressions on his outward persona. Even so, he found somewhat a solace to his neighbor, a young mother (Carey Mulligan) whose husband was in jail. And then of course, the shit hits the fan when he meddles with some characters (mafia?) who were in turn connecting all these characters together.
“Drive” is a story driven action movie that expecting a high-octane action scenes showered with loud explosions and metal debris would be a mistake. Even so, when it comes to violence, Nicolas Winding Refn doesn’t shy away. In fact, I was surprised when the movie showed its first violence scene. It was graphic, and explicit, my jaw was literally dropped agape. As it turns out, Mr.Refn had consulted Gaspar Noe on one of the violence scene that was resembling the infamous fire extinguisher scene from his 2002 film, “Irreversbile.” Fortunately, these scenes were never meant to be taken out of context as they were pretty much also a necessity to show that our hero is in fact, not entirely safe or invulnerable. One simply has to look at his face to see the actual panic and fear. The driver was in a constant real danger which in turn, gives this movie an edge because we never know whether our hero will make it out alive or not. Well, at least that’s what I felt because you see, most of action movies out there were never really put its hero in a dire situation. They always seems to left unscathed no matter how bad the situation is. And because this movie clearly deviates from that rule, it was, for me, turns out to be a very good movie.
I discovered Ryan Gosling in 2007, through “Lars and the Real Girl.” Back then, he wasn’t as identifiable as he is right now. But I found that movie was so obscure and Lars Lindstorm, the character, was so very memorable I had marked Ryan Gosling from that moment on. Fast forward to 2011, he has three movies under his belt, and although I was a bit disappointed with “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” for it gives him a relatively small challenge in a role that doesn’t asks much of him, I was thoroughly impressed with his performance as the unnamed driver in this movie. He is the force behind this movie and even if he doesn’t talk much, it would be a different movie altogether without him in the driving seat. And I doubt that it would be for the better. A bit spoiler-y here, but when the first death occurred, his expressions, body languages showed much much more emotions than if they were voiced with audible dialogs. I really can’t put them into words but one has to see it for oneself in order to appreciate such performance. It sucked me in right away.
Also supported by notable performances from Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan (probably a bit inappropriate but she has a really beautiful shaped skull, it’s gorgeous), and to a certain extent, Ron Perlman, this movie is one that should be experienced. It is, after all, definitely one of my favorite movie of the year.