Movie Reviews

Drive: A slow burn

By Zaki JufriMovies - 03 November 2011 4:29 PM | Updated 5:00 PM

Drive: A slow burn

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

“If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I'm yours no matter what. I don't sit in while you're running it down; I don't carry a gun... I drive.” And that’s precisely what Ryan Gosling does in his latest outing, Drive.

And drive he does. With calculated nonchalance, a gloved hand on the steering wheel, sleek embroided bomber jacket and topped off with a smirk on his handsome mug, Gosling is the epitome of cool. In this era of CGI and superlative-filled action flicks, there aren’t many movies that ooze coolness. And Drive is definitely one of them.

Even its opening scene (which we think is the best scene in the film) where Gosling’s ‘Driver’ shows off those driving chops and speeds off from the cops send shivers down our spine. The cool set piece establishes the unnerving calm that will carry Gosling throughout.

The movie is so cool that there’s barely any dialogue—save for Gosling’s spiel whenever he pitches for a getaway driver job—so the cast have to put their game face on and dish out the performance of their lives. Much like charades but cooler, of course.

But when Gosling does speak, there’s a sense of purpose to those words and what happens next can be very, very intense.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Valhalla Rising) steers away from the typical getaway heist films we’re so accustomed to (like Fast & Furious, Gone in 60 Seconds) and instead of putting the pedal to the metal from the get-go, he shifts the film into first gear, cruising along until the its time to launch into fifth gear in the second half of the film.

The movie has already won Refn the prize for best director at the Cannes Film Festival, ensuring it cult status and the honour of closing the recent Melbourne International Film Festival. Do you hear the Oscar bells ringing?

Based on a crime novel by James Sallis, Gosling works as a Hollywood stuntman whose talent attracts the interest of a local mob boss (Albert Brooks). When Gosling’s attraction to his next door neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) leads him to assist her ex-con husband in a heist, he is just a pawn in a big mob conspiracy, and struggles to stay ahead.

This is where Refn makes a hard right turn after an admittedly slow run. Just when you thought this movie is descending into snooze-ville, you’re holding on to your seats for dear life. The second half is filled with a stunning amount of violence, to the point where it could very well be far too upsetting for most viewers—like the part where Gosling smashes a man’s skull to smithereens with his boot or when Brooks slashes a man’s neck with a straight razor.

Gosling shows us again why he’s an actor to reckon with. His ‘Driver’ exudes an almost meditative Zen-like quality—bubbling and simmering—that when he does erupt, all hell breaks loose. He showed us his comedic side with Crazy, Stupid, Love and with Drive he channels the strong silent types of classic cinema. And then there is the gripping The Ides of March.

What we love about the movie is its cool soundtrack which evokes the 80s. The movie is peppered with electro-esques tunes from “Night Call” by Kavinsky and CSS’ Lovefoxxx, “Tick of the Clock” by The Chromatics and “A Real Hero” by College. Even Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo had a hand in producing one of the songs.

One moment, it’s moody and contemplative, and then it’s explosive and graphic the next; Drive is certainly one of 2011’s most intriguing films. With a great lead, cinematography (thanks to director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel, Valkyrie, The Usual Suspects), a cool soundtrack and supporting roles, Drive coasts coolly into true cinematic greatness.