An impeccably rendered & thoroughly absorbing character study that relies more on images than words to convey its themes & emotions, Drive (2011) is smart, subversive & soulful in ways that most examples of its genre never aspire to, and is bolstered by an immaculate performance from Ryan Gosling who blends tough & tender to breathe an air of freshness into the outdated action hero archetype.
Set in Los Angeles, the story follows a man who works as a mechanic at a garage, offers his services as a stunt driver in Hollywood films, and also moonlights as a getaway driver for parties interested in heists. But when his carefully guarded life takes an unexpected turn for the worse after a robbery gone wrong, it threatens everything he holds dear in his life and everyone he’s ever cared about.
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive is the first & only film of his that I’ve seen so far and the silent, contemplative approach he opts for to bring this actioner to life on the silver screen is, by all means, an inspired choice. Treating the script with the respect it deserves, Refn’s direction makes sure that every scene is relevant to the plot, and all the aspects work in tandem to uplift the narrative.
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The gorgeously rendered frames have a gloomy mood & glistening quality that gives its Los Angeles setting a dreamlike ambiance, and it’s all the more amplified by the neon-bathed visuals, clever camerawork, muted color tones & ideal lighting. Editing unfolds the plot at a steady pace, providing enough room for characters to breathe. And the synth-heavy score & incorporated songs are absolutely spot-on at all times.
Coming to the performances, Drive features a talented ensemble in Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac & Ron Perlman, with Gosling stealing the show. He has the perfect understanding of his character, his strengths, his feelings & his motives, and it all shows in his rendition. Brooks impresses as well with a no-nonsense performance. The remaining cast is no slouch in their given roles and they all chip in with brilliant inputs.
On an overall scale, Drive (2011) is an ingeniously directed, masterly scripted, beautifully photographed, skilfully edited, deliberately paced, wonderfully scored & strongly performed mix of style & substance that’s crafted with care & executed with surgical precision from the first frame to the last. Treading the fine line between violence & romance in a delicate fashion, the film is a neo-noir delight that may not be everyone’s cup of tea but can definitely be summed up as a fully realized arthouse action if there ever was one. Highly recommended. Multiple viewings advised.