Kim Larkin reviews the unconventional action thriller Drive, starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan.
To begin to explain Drive is excruciating. There are no words that can accurately convey exactly what this film is. Except perhaps these: instant classic.
But considering words are, after all, our business here at Meld, I’ll attempt to elaborate.
The plot is impeccable. Set in LA, a young mechanic (Ryan Gosling) works part time as a stunt driver in films, and moonlights as the best getaway driver in the city – with all kinds of criminals hiring him for his talents.
Quiet in nature, the talented driver soon bonds with his neighbour, single mother Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her son, Benicio. So you may be expecting your traditional Hollywood romance. Or you might even be expecting a film about cars (like this unhappy, and perhaps somewhat irrational filmgoer). But if so, you’re wrong on both counts.
Drive is an instant classic because it defies genre; it’s a romantic, heist-gone-wrong, mafia, gangland, film noir, Fast and the Furious-if-it-were-independent kind of film with all the artistic flair of European cinema, and the heart pounding thrills of a Korean blockbuster.
Based upon the 2005 book by James Sallis, Drive pays homage to the near-forgotten car genre of 1980’s American cinema. It combines a Breakfast Club-esque ’80s-inspired soundtrack (nothing cheesy, I promise) with a hint of David Lynch (director of Mulholland Drive) in the creepy and imaginative minimal lighting. These elements establish a sense of nostalgia and intimacy, while at the next moment the film reminds audiences they cannot determine what’s to happen next.
Gosling gives one of the best performances seen all year. Intense and brooding, you never know his character’s name and he hardly speaks. But you are unlikely to even notice, because Gosling shows every emotion and thought purely through the slightest change in expression. It was always to be expected that the star of films such as The Notebook and Crazy Stupid Love would deliver an impressive performance, but Gosling does more than deliver – he creates.
Up-and-coming young actress Carey Mulligan is refreshing in her minimal approach to the character of Irene. She rises to the challenge of partnering Gosling, perfectly playing out their unspoken chemistry.
Huge credit goes to director Nicolas Winding Refn, who is virtually unknown in the industry. Not only does Drive have visual elements on a grand scale – similar to that of your typical action blockbuster – but for Winding Refn to establish such a complex plot with such creativity and subtlety shows exceptional maturity in the industry.
Drive is a rare film to come by. It pushes the extremes of filmmaking and narrative and does what most films cannot – challenge you and entertain you at the same time.
Watching it isn’t simply viewing a film; it’s an ultimate experience.
But perhaps a disclaimer: Drive is not the sort of film you would watch on a first, second, or maybe even third date!