Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Neo-noir. Action heist. Dark romance. Tarantino bloodfest. Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn‘s latest picture, is a joyous stirring up of these micro genres, and one of the year’s best arthouse-actioners.
Our unnamed anti-hero (Ryan Gosling) cruises the streets of sun-saturate LA, working as full-time car mechanic / part-time stunt driver – with a little criminal getaway driving in between. He develops a bond with neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son, while the father is doing time in prison; but when daddy comes home, it’s up to our Driver to use his prowess for speedy getaways to help him out of some big-time debt – so Irene and her son’s life remain unthreatened.
Strong opening sequences are very important in today’s attention-defecit West; thankfully, the guys behind the wheel of Drive know what they’re doing. The initial seven(ish) minutes effortlessly tease you into Drive‘s neon dreamworld; we’re given our Driver – acted by a first-rate Gosling – whose needs are few, intentions good, but ultimately hanging with the wrong crowd. By the time we reach the blooming of his and Irene’s (fully believable) relationship, we’re introduced subtly to Refn’s deft movement with the camera; heated conversations or almost zero-dialogue sequences equally benefit from the intensity and mounting of his shots – not to mention the flair of the cast, especially Mulligan.
But that’s where Drive‘s biggest strengths also seem to be its near-undoing. While the flick is just on the right side of pretentious – just – the impact of its biggest moments are still either increased or decreased thanks to an indulgent disposition for slow-motion. The narrative also loses much of its thread roughly two-thirds the way through – characters are killed off, but for no clear reason. The whole thing holds strong against these high-ambition arthouse flaws, and delivers enough genuinely surprising ultra-violence in its second half to eradicate any notion of film snob wankery usually found on that same level of filmmaking.
Like its ice-eyed protagonist never opting to devolve into an uninteresting stereotype, Drive never subscribes to one genre, instead choosing to borrow from them all to make a fresh-yet-retro, suspense-wraught thriller noir. Oh, and Gosling’s dominating performance here lets us know he’s here to stay.