Production year: 2011
- Cert (UK): 18
- Runtime: 95 mins
- Directors: Nicolas Winding Refn
- Cast: Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan, Christina Hendricks, Kaden Leos, Oscar Isaac, Ryan Gosling
Ryan Gosling plays a solitary stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for robberies. His lone-wolf existence begins to change after meeting Irene (Carey Mulligan) and forming a maternal bond with her son Benicio (Kaden Leos). Her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), is a convicted criminal due to be released from prison soon, and Driver offers his services so that he can cut his ties completely from the criminal world by doing one last job. Little does he know that his enemies are spread much higher than he thought. Is the driver out of his depth? He’ll need more than the AA to help him out of this situation.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn is best known for his film Pusher (1996) about a drug dealer on the wrong side of the law, a theme of an innocent character trapped by his profession which is repeated in Drive. Some of the film’s success is owed to its retro 80s soundtrack, especially at the opening of the film where it pretty much sets the tone. The 80s cinematography and lighting also add to the dramatic and intriguing setting of the film.
However, Gosling really steals the show in this film. Playing an awkward and shy character who doesn’t like to bring attention to himself, things go downhill when he meets Irene (Mulligan). Other than falling for the girl, which is a recurring theme in many of his films such as The Notebook (2004) and Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) – which the release of Driver also coincides with – Gosling is playing against his typical character; as an anti hero as he is usually cast in rom-coms whereas this is more of a thriller.
Known for being a femme fatale in Mad Men, Hendricks plays relatively small but integral role in the film, and adds to a great cast for a relatively small scale film.
What Refn does which is really unique to Drive is to drag out scenes and add tension, so that the audience feel the same amount of suspense that the characters do. Another benefit of this, of course, is that you can really hear the engine and feel as if you’re in the driving seat as well. However, the film can sometimes be over-long and tedious in waiting for action to happen.
My honest opinion of the film is although it’s chilling and violent, and has a great soundtrack, I would be best to compare it with Never Let Me Go (2011) with Carey Mulligan again; it is a bleak film with somewhat somber watching, and nothing compared to Gone in 60 Seconds (2000) that it has been matched with. The silences throughout the film make it depressing rather than enjoyable which is not what I expect from a cinema experience, although there are some moments, such as the elevator scene, which are truly captivating and focus more on the emotional response of the characters than the sheer brutality that is involved.
The finale of the film, on the other hand, makes the entire 95 minutes worth the awkwardness, and is a much needed climax to the constantly built up suspense.