This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Simon Ramshaw’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
"If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder." - Robin
In similar style to my Cloud Atlas review, I think the only sensible way to review this is by dividing it up into sections and tackling it piece by piece.
LEAD CHARACTER: Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling)
REVIEW: It's just phenomenal. Just the best. Dare I say Ryan Gosling's performance here is even better than in Drive? You guys all know how much that means to me, but this is genuinely better. He's astonishing as the ice-cold drifter with a heart who feels obliged to provide for his fragmented 'family', any which way he can. The bank robbery scenes are truly intense, with things going south marked by the breaking of Gosling's voice. The tension and visceral nature of these scenes and their aftermath is some feat, considering the inevitable conclusion that it all ends with. Ben Mendelsohn very nearly steals it from under Gosling's nose, but this is Gosling's show from the opening take (which, may I add, is probably the best piece of film-making I've seen this year).
LEAD: Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper)
REVIEW: After the sucker punch ending of Act 1, there really needs to be some heft to match the sheer class of the first act. And it nearly achieves it. A great corruption and redemption story, Cooper has never been better as the cop fighting against the system to attempt to forgive himself for a shockingly brutal act. Ray Liotta is suitably slimy, and his presence adds yet another level of tension to a complex character study.
LEAD: Jason (Dane DeHaan)
REVIEW: With an introduction of a character that threatens to derail the entire film, the third act shapes up very soon, largely due to the remarkable Dane DeHaan. He manages to keep the film from crashing and burning after an almost complete disregard for some of the characters seen earlier in the movie. But, like once act 2 begins to pick up pace, it redeems itself with a touching middle section with a returning Ben Mendelsohn and a tense, satisfying finale that manages to resolve the sprawling, epic threads that Cianfrance had set out.
Now, I know what you're thinking. How can he have possibly given this five stars when a total score of 27 out of 30 equals 9/10? Well, the same reason as why Cloud Atlas gets five stars. When put together, this is a beautiful experience. While it's a million miles away from Drive in terms of style, this is another Gosling crime-saga that thrills in a supremely visceral manner. Achieving a consistent level of tension that even Drive fails to reach at points, this is another masterpiece for the ages. Bravo.
And for a while, with inspiration from Toby Dennison, I'll be changing my name to The Driver Beyond The Pines.