Sunday, April 8, 2012

Drive - Review

Much like this year's unlikely Oscar juggernaut, Drive is a stylised character study set in the world of movie-making, drenched in nostaligia & paying homage to genre films of a a bygone era by aping their style, with music doing the talking for a (mostly) silent character. But, like the praise inevitably afforded to any above average biographic performance, Drive goes beyond mere mimicry.

The setup is classic B-grade: an enigmatic Hollywood stunt driver moonlights as a criminal getaway driver. He lives a safely isolated existence, controlled by a strict set of cool sounding rules, until he falls for the girl next door & gets caught up in a battle of wits with ruthless gangsters & ex-Hollywood producers; but Nicolas Winding Refn's execution is pure, candy-coated style with flashes of jarring violence & characters that somehow breathe human inside their genre universe.

Of Gosling's three starring roles this year, Drive is by far his most exciting, taking in the legendary cool of Steve McQueen and the character intensity of a young DeNiro. It's an iconic, uber cool addition to his already diverse & impressive resume, while the rest of the cast is uniformly excellent, edgy & left field: Albert Brooks stands out as a charismatic, oddly considerate, often jovial, but ultimately deadly gangster & Carey Mulligan is utterly beguiling as the sweet but damaged girl next door but even Oscar Isaac, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks & Bryan Cranston bring distinct vitality to their small parts.

Cannes winning director Nicolas Winding Refn goes for broke, steeping every frame with distinct  atmosphere, pace & slick 80s cool. His plot unwinds slowly, tightly & ultimately explosively, washed in slickly detailed sets & outfits, lush lighting & photography, slow fading edits & Cliff Martinez's unashamedly electro-awesome score. Winding Refn has made a film that effectively reflects its enigmatic central character: immaculately groomed, low on words, a bit strange, quietly human & occasionally ultra violent.

A carefully personalised piece of genre film making & a welcome addition to 2011's Best Of list.