Drive

Drive ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I loved the experience of watching Drive the first time I saw it, but years later, I can still attest to my profound enjoyment of it. In 2011, I distinctly remember going to the dollar theater on a late Sunday night, with people I barely knew, and I was (admittedly) only in it for Gosling. However, what I got was an obsession. I could not get enough of the au courant soundtrack (which ended up having a music tour of it's own) and the slow-motion gangster violence. Now, four years later, I made the most of my 24-hour rental with two consecutive viewings.
To start, we hear Goslings distinguished voice laying out his terms of service agreement in a swanky LA hotel room... "in those five minutes, I'm yours. Anything happens a minute either side of that, and you're on your own." This moment matches the feeling of sitting on a rollercoaster while the employee drones on about the safety regulations you must adhere to in order to properly survive the ride. Basically, it's intense and you know it's about to go down.
The "job" begins, as well as the song "Nightcall" by Kavinsky. We are in. And we are cruising alongside the Driver (Ryan Gosling) whizzing by city lights, all while the screen is emblazoned with hot-pink stylistic opening credits. The mise-en-scéne is clear, and it is carried out beautifully throughout this whole film.
The Driver anxiously waits for the criminals to rush from the building from which they have presumably just robbed and this entire moment is paced with the deafening clicks of his stopwatch. As soon as both thieves are in the car, the Driver takes off and a cop chase ensues. It is electrifying.
Jumping forward, we are met with a pivotal dynamic, that ruptures the motivations of the Driver, and the film itself: the arrival of Irene (played by the magnificent Carey Mulligan) and her son, Benecio. Doused in powerful glances between the Driver and Irene, viewers are able to perceive their chemistry with minimal dialogue. The Driver is no longer the elusive criminal badass in the scorpion adorned jacket. He is moved by this kinship and assumes the caretaker position in this family dynamic almost immediately. Gosling's naturally crackling and off-pitched voice works perfectly to create a sense of vulnerability to this character, which could have otherwise resumed stark. Mulligan displays her ability to exude so much through her facial expressions and movements. The small breaths, the eyebrow lift; the crooked close-mouthed smile and gentle hands. Through these subtleties, the viewer is able to grasp her character's quiet tenderness and nurturing demeanor, her simplicity, her warmth, which help us to engage in her predicament upon the return of her formerly imprisoned husband (Oscar Isaac).
Isaac has been up-and-coming for the past few years, so it was enjoyable to re-watch this movie after seeing him in various roles since. Here, he gives us shame, pride, fear and love as a man who is trying to turn his life around. It is evident that his awareness of his own absence as a father and husband overwhelms him with uncertainty, inviting the pity and near mockery of the others. His character is likable, yet ineluctably antagonistic.
We have three other mentionable performances by Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman. Bryan Cranston is fantastic. His character is trying to be "badder" than he is and wobbles around on a bygone pelvis injury, money-grubbing and fraternizing with gangsters. Albert Brooks, mobster, brings a certain casual attitude to the character, which is intriguing. Ron Perlman, born with the jaw destined for Hellboy, simply is just perfect for this role. He builds levels to this character, allowing him to be cheesy and oblivious even from his mafioso position.
Complete with Christina Hendricks getting her head botched open six ways from Sunday in slow motion, James Biberi being laid out using hammer-and-nail at a strip club dressing room, and a captivating elevator kiss followed by a real gruesome head stomping, this movie is everything you want it to be. ‘Drive’ combines the mastery of direction (Nicholas Winding Refn), cinematography (done by Newton Thomas Sigel), soundtrack, and acting. Each element is so tightly arranged. This is a masterpiece in film and sets a new standard for cool. After watching it twice in a 24 hours, I found myself still wallowing at the realization that my time had run out and I could not watch it yet a third, or fourth, fifth... time.

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