In Theatres: 
Sep 16, 2011
Running Time: 
1 Hour, 40 Minutes

Ryan Gosling and Nicholas Winding Refn will work together again in Only God Forgives.

 2011 has been a hell of a year for movies. We've seen action epics from Transformers: Dark of the Moon to Thor, comedies like Bridesmaids and Horrible Bosses and even some great horror films (I still count Contagion, but I'll leave it out). These are all genres of movies that we see every year, though. Somewhere beyond the lowered-down criteria of what makes a movie last is a classification that is rarely heard from these days: Classic.  2011 may have just received its' first classic film. 

The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is a man of little words. If you saw what he has seen, you would be too. The crime-riddled streets of Los Angeles serve as his playground. As a Hollywood stunt driver and car mechanic, his services prove to be useful for those who seek a speedy getaway when executing certain serious jobs. His rules are simple: You get 5 minutes, he'll drive wherever you need to go, no exchanging of names and finally, he does not carry a gun. He only drives. With word getting around about his skill, certain people become interested in cashing in on him. Shannon (Bryan Cranston), stand-in manager for the Driver, introduces him to Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks), a wealthy businessman whose hands are as dirty as his smile is wide. With Rose helping out funds, the Driver could race stock cars and gain another profession under his belt. But when a job goes horribly wrong, the Driver finds himself with a contract not only on his head, but the head of his neighbor and love interest, Irene (Carey Mulligan). With nowhere left to go, the time has come for the Driver to break one of his rules. 

From the start, Drive refuses to let go. It's not just the storyline or the action that keeps the interest high. In Drive, it's all about the characters. It is incredibly clear about 15 minutes into the film that each actor is doing their best to completely capture the character with as few words as possible. None more so than the Driver. Having seen the majority of Goslings' other projects, it was surprising to see him star in something but still hear so little from him. Drive is a project that shows so much compassion and work towards a single goal: To make an extraordinary journey come to life. Journey almost seems like too big of a word to describe what the Driver goes through, due to the limited range of size of Drive's story. But a journey is exactly how I would describe it. A friend brought up the idea of Gosling becoming a replacement for James Dean, as the car specialist with more looks given than words delivered. I totally agree. It won't be something Gosling will revisit, but a 2011 stand-in for James Dean seems very appropriate of a title for this role. Make no mistake though, the Driver is a different character altogether. The Driver experiences so many different situations at once that we can actually watch him grow up and react how he believes he should. Yet, Gosling isn't the only actor who allows the film to breathe as well as it does. 

Carey Mulligan is as adorable and sweet as ever as Irene, the young mother next door with a fugitive husband who isn't ready to leave his criminal past behind. Mulligans' Irene is careful and protective, but can immediately feel a sense of comfort around the Driver. The sweet and loving nature of Irene is enough to win over the heart of the Driver, causing him to own two things he never has before: Love and something to keep away from work. It's classic threatened-love and never before has it been to sweet to watch unfold. Bryan Cranston delivers an incredible performance as the manager and stand-in father for the Driver, Shannon. Shannon has never done anything wrong by the Driver and does whatever it takes to make him happy. There's a scene near the beginning where Shannon goes from business mode to proud father, once the Driver completes a difficult stunt on the set of a Hollywood film. The Driver is the son that Shannon never had and not a scene goes by where you can't feel the emotions of a father for his son. Serving as the lackey and right hand man to Bernie Rose is Nino, played by Ron Pearlman. Pearlman has spent a lot of his time playing the misunderstood hero; The man who is feared by those who we protects. In Drive, Pearlman takes a backseat to hero and completely lives up the role of a villain. Nino is a ruthless killer who won't accept no as an answer. Nino is easily excited at the sight of old-school vehicles, as opposed to stock cars or any other sports cars. He's a man of class who just happened to skip a few lessons on etiquette. And finally, there's Bernie Rose. Albert Brooks rarely, if ever, gets to visit a role like this. Disguised as a gentleman of business, Bernie works hand-in-hand with Nino to keep control of almost every major crime that unravels in L.A. Bernie loves only two things in this world and that's money and notoriety. With the Driver standing in the way of his success, Bernie finds himself in the middle of war with his own business partner. Brooks, Cranston and Gosling tied here for most impressive performance. Each one given a character that none of them have ever played, yet still managed to pull off with incredible ease. Drive is worth seeing for the characters and performances alone. 

Thankfully, the performances are not the only reason that Drive is so perfectly well done. The direction for Drive is something I've never seen before. The story seemed so personal to each and every character, regardless of who was considered good or evil. Nicholas Winding Refn, the director, places such a large emotional toll on each character that it becomes easy to understand and care for every character on screen. Refn had the right mentality on keeping the focus on the Driver, but keeps the intrique alive by showcasing more emotion from the supporting cast than any other film would. These easy, yet complicated steps allow Drive to become a hugely enjoyable work with a large payoff for each character. With Valhalla Rising and Bronson under his belt, Refn shouldn't have any problem finding work with Drive fresh on his plate. 

Piecing together the emotion and suspense of Drive is the remarkably eccentric, suspenseful and sporadic soundtrack, composed by Cliff Martinez (ex-drummer for Red Hot Chili Peppers and fresh off of the soundtrack from Contagion). Martinez chooses technological sounds to capture fear and wonder in every step throughout the film. Even the songs he didn't write for Drive capture some level of both fear and comfort, which is exactly what every character of the movie feels at that time. The two songs that strike the biggest nerves in the film are Kavinsky-Nightcall and College-A Real Hero. Both capture exactly what you'd believe the character on screen to be thinking. Not to mention that, on their own, they are extremely hypnotic songs.

Beautiful, visceral and gut-wrenching, Drive shines as the best film of 2011 and no doubt a future classic for anyone who loves movies. However, Gosling fans beware: This is no Notebook. 


Ryan Sterritt
Review by Ryan Sterritt
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