Reviewed: ‘Drive’ Blu-ray

SYNOPSIS: Known only as ‘the Driver’, Ryan Gosling befriends his next door neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son. Their relationship blossoms until Irene’s husband Standard is released from prison with debts he cannot pay. When Irene and her son are threatened, the Driver agrees to help Standard pull off a heist. Then people start killing each other in diverse and creative ways.

SYNOPSIS: Known only as ‘the Driver’, Ryan Gosling befriends his next door neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son. Their relationship blossoms until Irene’s husband Standard is released from prison with debts he cannot pay. When Irene and her son are threatened, the Driver agrees to help Standard pull off a heist. Then people start killing each other in diverse and creative ways.

Drive (verb): Operate & control a motor vehicle.

Drive (noun): An inborn desire or urge. Determination & ambition.

Sounds like a simple premise? It is, really. At no point in this movie does any car turn into a robot. In fact, the opening scene is barely even a car chase, rising the tension rather than pumping the adrenaline and making the Driver’s day job crashing cars in Hollywood seem dull by comparison.

English: Ryan Gosling at the 2010 Toronto Inte...
Gosling:Toronto Film Festival. Photo: GDC Graphics

Gosling owns his role as a strong, silent, nameless hero, was reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s characters in the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western trilogy. Occasionally Gosling’s performance borders on the creepy. Borders being the key word, because the Driver is a captivating presence during the romantic first act of the film. Gosling’s performance is the polar opposite of Tom Hardy’s star-making turn in Nicholas Winding Refn’s previous feature Bronson: The Driver smoulders where Bronson would roar; he is economical with his words, whereas Bronson was prone to bouts of outstanding gibberish. What they do share is mesmeric personality, and the ability to dominate in beautifully, meticulously crafted movies.

Until Irene reveals that her husband is being released from prison (ascene which takes place in a car, obviously) Drive plays out like a serene dream. Gosling only has to stare and twitch his lip and everybody falls in love with him. He fixes cars, drives cars, masters childcare with the gift of a toothpick.

During this opening act even the gangters are relatively non-threatening. Perhaps the most cynical, hardest heart could beat for a happy ending. Unfortunately characters as enigmatic as the Driver do not have the luxury of such warm fuzzy narrative devices.

This disclosure introduces a change in the mood of Drive.  The second act, and the violence begins; shadows replace light, all the time and space afforded Gosling & Mulligan to stare and smile at each other is crowded out by unsavoury types and unfortunate situations. Everything changes. For one fleeting moment, a tender exchange in an elevator reconjoures the ethereal atmosphere; but its a tease, the point of no return from which the film launches with full force into more typical Winding Refn territory. All hell breaks loose and the Driver stomps a gangsters head into a pulp, the camera watching over Irene’s shoulder as one of the coolest characters of recent times goes postal. Its not quite Irreversable, fire-exstinguisher shocking, but it shares the pantheon of cinematic head bludgeoning with a degree of pride.

‘Drive’, at this juncture, switches gears into a stereotypical gangster film, differentiated only by Winding Refn’s lush visual style. The Driver doesn’t get the girl, but that’s not what he really wants, is it? ‘Drive’ concludes with our (anti)hero behind the wheel, driving into the night; in many ways, despite the emotional rollercoaster, nothing has really changed for him except for the knife wound in the Driver’s stomach and the blood and filth covering his iconic golden scorpion jacket.

Worthy of all the hype and critical acclaim, ‘Drive’ transitions seamlessly from mildly thrilling romance into bloody, brooding solitude. It is perfectly watchable on the small screen, the soundtrack and scenery remaining crucial characters in their own right. Gosling and Mulligan share an electric chemistry which is unfortunately doused in the films second half, leaving a small but nagging impulse that only a happy ending could placate.

 

EXTRAS

An amusing, sweary and sexualised Q&A with director Nicholas Winding Refn, who comes across like a shorter, bespectacled Johnny Depp. But that is all really. No commentaries.

 

 

 

 

 

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