Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman
Nicolas Winding Refn
Hossein Amini, James Sallis
Under The Hood;
Driver and Irene;
Cut To The Chase;
Drive Without A Driver: Interview With Nicolas Winding Refn
I remember when I heard that Ryan Gosling was going to make an action film, I was completely and utterly stunned.
The indie darling with a reputation for being ultra-choosy about his projects and relentlessly dedicated to his craft?
Surely my Gosling couldn't have sold out?
My mind is resting peacefully again having witnessed Gosling's journey into the action genre, Drive, a Cannes Film Festival favorite and a genre transcending film that is stylish, fun, violent and characters who actually matter.
Gosling is The Driver, a cinematic stuntman by day and a getaway driver-for-hire by night. The Driver, who remains anonymous throughout the film, has a rather magnificent gift for driving and, more importantly, evading the cops with intelligence and creativity.
Gosling's only real confidante is his boss (a terrific Bryan Cranston), at least until he meets the literal girl next door (Carey Mulligan), who resides there with her young boy. The two hit it off, she managing to avoid the subject of her soon to return from prison boyfriend (Oscar Isaac). When the boyfriend returns, the two men do that wary dance that men do until The Driver decides to join forces with the boyfriend, who wants to do one last "easy" job so that he can pay off some gangsters and move on with his life.
It's never that simple, is it?
Ryan Gosling exudes a sort of slow and simmering burn, complementing the film's minimalist tone to near perfection. Gosling's The Driver says very few words, but every word he does say means something. Gosling, who first caught the public's eye in The Notebook but has primarily focused his career on critically acclaimed yet commercially timid projects, has had quite the year with both Crazy, Stupid, Love and now this film. Gosling radiates equal parts Eastwood and Bronson, a sort of quiet calm that is endlessly captivating.
Much like Gosling, Mulligan has made quite the career for herself in highly acclaimed yet frequently under-seen films. Mulligan matches Gosling's quiet tone by wisely underplaying this American blue-collar woman who's likable yet obviously a bit damaged in more ways than one. Albert Brooks is perfectly cast in a role that Jim Carrey has been trying to pull off without success for years, a seemingly ordinary guy with a decidedly sinister twist. Ron Perlman delights as a Jewish gangster.
It may seem like Drive has a bit of an uneven tone, at times playing out almost like a B-movie and other times clearly a contemporary and stylishly realized action flick. While there are plenty of the obligatory chase scenes, Drive works because it is so much more than your run of the mill car chase flick. D.P. Newton Thomas Sigel lenses the film to perfection, capturing both shocking acts of violence and rather remarkable moments of humanity. Because director Nicolas Winding Refn manages to infuse the film with so much humanity and depth of character, the violence actually matters that much more.
Gosling may not see another Oscar nomination this year, but here's hoping he parlays his box-office success this year into a career that continues to grow with films that matter and films that entertain.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic