How far would you go to save someone you care about from tragedy? For Ryan Goslingís character in Drive, there may be no limit to what heís willing to do. Gosling plays a movie stunt man/garage mechanic during the day and an expert getaway driver for thieves at night. Heís a loner who rarely speaks, but we can see the wheels turning in his brain. We recognize his intelligence by the way he plans his getaway jobs, and we understand his feelings for Irene (Carey Mulligan) because he looks at her and her young son with such compassion and longing. But we have no idea about the manís capacity for violence until -- well, that would be giving too much away. (Hint: itís something he says; not something he does.)
After forming a close friendship with Irene and little Benicio (Kaden Leos), the no-name ďDriverĒ (Gosling) meets Standard (Oscar Isaac/The Nativity Story), Benicioís father, when heís released from prison. Unfortunately, Driver becomes involved with Standard. Why? Because the ex-con is being pressured into doing a robbery. If he refuses, his family will suffer dire consequences. Of course, Driver canít let something like that happen. How the heist goes wrong takes center stage from this point on.
Based on the book by James Sallis and adapted for the screen by Hussein Amini (The Four Feathers), the simple story -- not unfamiliar to moviegoers, for sure -- isnít what makes Drive such a great film. Fascinating cinematography, riveting performances and memorable background music (by Cliff Martinez/Wicker Park) combine to elevate the movie above many other heist-gone-wrong flicks. Credit goes to director Nicholas Winding Refn (Bronson) for allowing events to play out slowly -- almost dreamily -- enough to pique our interest in key characters while peppering the film with scenes of shocking, nightmarish brutality.
Although expecting Drive to be an action-packed offering similar to films like Fast & Furious or Gone in 60 Seconds, Iím not disappointed with its character focus instead. Gosling (Blue Valentine), with lots of help from cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel (X-Men), delivers his most impressive performance to date as a loner who intrigues us from beginning to end. Sigel shows Goslingís face from many different angles as Driver stares out of a window/windshield, rides in an elevator, watches Irene and Benicio, and so forth. If Gosling wins an Oscar for this movie, he should share it with Sigel.
Mulligan (An Education) almost broke my heart with her understated but authentic portrayal of a woman torn between love and duty. She also benefits from Sigelís camera treatment. Other cast members --Albert Brooks (The Muse), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Bryan Cranston (TVís Breaking Bad), and Christine Hendricks (TVís Mad Men) -- do their best to make their diverse characters come to life on screen. Brooks may have revived his acting career here with an against-type turn, one that completely surprised me.
Clearly, though, this is Goslingís film. I admit being mesmerized by his Driver character. In fact, I want to know more about him. How did he get so interested in driving? What drove him to being a getaway driver? As you can guess, Iím already psyched up for a prequel!
(Released by Film District and rated ďRĒ for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity.)
For more information about Drive, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.