A Netflix Finds Review
2011 was owned by Ryan Gosling. He put out two great films, and one near perfect film. The formers - The Ides of March and Crazy, Stupid, Love were typical for their genre, but bolstered by performances and solid screenplays. Gosling was a star before these films, but they did a great job of confirming just how good on screen he really is. For an actor who had a rise similar (sort of) to Leonardo Dicaprio, he followed up Gosling-mania from The Notebook by starring in a series of critically majestic films - Half Nelson, Fracture, Lars & the Real Girl and Blue Valentine. His performances were praised. His charm noted. Despite all of these, and even his successful 2011 films, a valid point had to be made - Gosling wasn't tough.
It's a strong word to use, but looking at his history, none of his roles in any of the previously mentioned films would ever intimidate you. He's The Notebook guy. He's the guy who made out with a blow up doll. He's the pretty boy from Remember the Titans. There wasn't much you could do to sway others in their opinion of him. Gosling wasn't tough enough.
Of course, they're all very wrong. Drive is proof of that.
Probably one of the most polarizing films of 2011, second only to The Tree of Life I'd say, Drive did the one thing no one had ever truly successfully accomplished - the meshing of two conflicting genres. I'm a huge proponent for the film. To me, it's Gosling's best work to date. No matter how many more political dramas, nor any shoot 'em ups he does (like Gangster Squad) - Drive will continue to be the best film he's done.
Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson) filmed Drive with a very different approach. The opposition between the violence and the drama was a challenge. But Refn took the adapted script from Hossein Amini (Killshot, Snow White & the Huntsman), and weaved the first arthouse action film. Action films are never indie or artsy. Action films are geared towards your visual senses, overloading at times with explosions, boobs, and random violence. Drive doesn't pull any punches, which is why it was critically adored, but the public responded adversely to it - one disgruntled woman allegedly tried to sue the studio for false advertising because the trailers depicted the film as an action film, and not an artsy drama.
Well it's both. Gosling's the Driver, a no name stuntman who drives the cars in Hollywood films but moonlights as a getaway driver. He's quiet, he's reserved, he's quite possibly the most dangerous person in LA. The Driver gets involved with Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son. This leads to tension as her incarcerated husband is released and is left to pay off his previous debt to some sharks in the mafia. The Driver helps Irene's husband and ultimately gets himself in too deep. But we've seen this before right? Badass in town, shoots things up, kicks ass... blah blah blah. No. Amidst the blood splattering, a key factor here is Gosling's ability to play the part nearly unemotional. Even at times of the most high intensity, he maintains composure. And that's the point.
Hossein adapted this from a novella by James Sallis that goes into far more detail on the character's background and upbringing. But the script omits all of that and does so intuitively. It's expected that we'll get his back story, but we never do, and that's the beauty of it. Films that challenge the mind are rare in American cinema. You have to head to your local independent theater to see those types of films. But Drive is that mainstream rarity that doesn't follow the typical tropes. Instead it nestles complacently in the realm of other challenging films that rupture your senses. The sound will get so loud while Irene and the Driver kiss in the elevator - then it will go silent as he stomps in a henchman's skull to the point it caves in. That sweet kiss, now ruined.
Drive didn't win an Oscars, though it damn well should have. It has a stellar cast, Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), and Albert Brooks (Taxi Driver, The Simpsons Movie) all do their part - especially Brooks who's quite menacing and deserved at least a nomination. Drive didn't even rake in the big bucks at the box office. There's no special edition DVD/Blu-Ray with extended cuts. Drive is exactly what it should be and that's the first of it's kind - proof that your action movies don't have to be dumbed down for you anymore.
MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity.
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer: Hossein Aminia
Cast: Ryan Gosling; Carey Mulligan; Albert Brooks; Ron Perlman; Christia Hendricks
Genre: Action | Crime | Drama | Thriller
Memorable Movie Quote: "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."
Tagline: There Are No Clean Getaways.
Official Site: www.drive-movie.com
Release Date: September 16, 2011
Link to Netflix: Drive
Plot Synopsis: A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.