Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Pearlman
Drive might be the perfect movie. This of course is completely subjective and dependent on taste. But for me, Drive is flawless.
It’s about an unnamed stunt car driver (Ryan Gosling) who moonlights as a wheel man for the criminals of Los Angeles. He is quiet, neat, and organized. His life, boring as it might be, is safe…until he meets a girl. Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son, Benicio, are his next door neighbors. Though Irene and Gosling crush on each other hard, Irene’s husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), is about to get out of prison. The little time they share with each other is beautiful. When Gosling finds the now-free husband beat to hell and a bullet in Benicio’s hand, he decides to take matters into his own hands. From there, the story twists into a thrilling tale of lies, greed and Russian gangsters.
The relationship between Gosling and Mulligan is what makes this film special. They are a director’s dream. All the car chases and violence and hammer wielding would still be fun and entertaining regardless, but the value of those things is amplified by the sparks between the two main characters. The key moment in the film is the elevator scene with Gosling and Mulligan. He pushes her against the wall and kisses her, as if to apologize and, perhaps, say goodbye, before literally stomping a man to death. Gore is nothing new in movies, but placing it next to a beautiful, vulnerable moment is.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn makes a lot of bold, smart choices in Drive. He got his start overseas with excessively graphic films, so it’s no surprise that dark taste followed him to this project. The violence in Drive is very retro, a throwback to the days of over-produced 80’s action flicks. It’s very jarring to see after such a sweet and loving relationship between Gosling and Mulligan, and that’s exactly what Refn wants. After lulling the audience to sleep with a pleasant story for 45 minutes, he brings it all down.
The accompanying elements also work perfectly. The soundtrack, which really consists of one actual song, is freaking awesome. It’s a sad, beautiful ballad that hangs over Gosling like a dark cloud. The remaining tracks are electronic chords that flow seamlessly in and out of the scenes. The cinematography is so good it has inspired an entire category of pop art. Pink and blue aren’t normally associated with action movies, but Refn once again makes a bold choice that works perfectly.
Drive is visually stunning, audibly captivating and griping at exactly the right moments. While Refn has left something to be desired with his more recent work (seriously, don’t watch Only God Forgives), he struck gold with this one. Drive deserves all the praise it can get, and Gosling and Mulligan deserve to be on a shortlist for best movie couples. Come for the love story and wait patiently for the violence. And, as always, stay entertained.