Saturday, May 19, 2012

Movie review: Drive

About friggin' time some new content went up here ...

In last year's Drive, Ryan Gosling plays The Driver, a quiet Los Angeles loner who works as a mechanic in his full-time job, does stunt driving for the movies part-time and takes jobs as the world's best getaway driver on the side.  He keeps to himself, focusing on whatever job is at hand - calm to the point of comatose, disconnected from the people around him, except as much as his twitchy boss/manager Shannon (Bryan Cranston) can get him to engage.  When he moves into a new apartment, he meets his neighbors, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son, Benecio.  He likes them, and they him, and they spend some time together, the long silent pauses only slightly uncomfortable.  Soon enough Irene's husband Standard gets out of jail.  There's some initial tension when the ex-con is suspicious of this new guy moving in on his family, but when some old prison buddies lean on Standard for money he owes them, The Driver steps up to help and keep Irene and little Benecio safe.  Things go south, badly, and The Driver is soon enmeshed in complications, including threats from local gangsters played to type by Ron Perlman and against type by Albert Brooks.

This is a fantastic movie.  It's paced fairly slowly, with the tension ratcheting up almost imperceptibly until I realized I was leaning forward in my seat, shoulders tensed up around my ears.  There are moments of extreme violence but they are spaced out and all the more potent for their rarity.  The story is tight, there is no superfluous dialogue.  And the acting is superb.  Albert Brooks chews the scenery a tad, but his charming menace is believable.  Bryan Cranston is good and about as far from Walter White (Breaking Bad) as possible.  Ryan Gosling is just fantastic: a man without name, without history, with only slight bursts of action, he delicately marks his character's progression with subtle expression and tension.  He's on-screen a lot but he doesn't say much, and yet he's just wonderful.

A lot of things I read thought Drive should have been up for best picture, especially since they made the nominee field larger last year.  I can see why some people wouldn't have wanted it nominated - it's not a big, splashy movie, and technically it's an action/thriller which genre doesn't too often get to the big show - but gosh, the story and acting are good enough that I too think maybe it should have been in the running.  For an "action" flick, it's pretty slow-paced for the most part (I watched it without Mr. Mouse but know he would have deemed it too slow) and quite frankly for a movie about a driver I would have liked at least one more car chase, particularly since the one big one was so good.  But it's really the outstanding acting that makes Drive so good - even makes you forget Ryan Gosling was ever in that stupid Notebook.


  1. I really enjoyed it as well. The slow pace was almost too slow for me, but the tension definitely got to me.

    One a different note, have you seen The Way of the Gun? It's from 2000 and has one of the best slow-speed car chases. Plus James Caan. I think you'd like it.

  2. The only thing that really bugged me was the music - it seemed anachronistic, way too 80s (despite The Driver's satin jacket and the very 80s title card font), and kept distracting me. I was really impressed with Gosling, tho, and am going to have make sure Blue Valentine, Lars and the Real Girl and Half Nelson are in my queue.

    I'll add TWotG too - thanks for the recommendation.