Baby can I Drive your car?

Ryan Gosling is the quiet centre of noir-like thriller Drive.

Drive_The DriverHow can someone want to sue director Nicolas Winding Refn after seeing Drive because there isn’t enough driving in it? I don’t think the title is necessarily literal, you not-very-bright person! I can’t confess though, on a first viewing, to have been as blown away as some have been by this visually arresting and violent noir, set in present day LA, but I do feel its going to be one of those films that rewards you with more each time you see it.

It’s certainly gorgeous to look at – extraordinary panoramic night shots of LA by Refn and his director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel – and has a kick-ass cast: Christina Hendricks is a pouting modern day moll; Carey Mulligan, a seemingly calm, sweet mum; Oscar Isaac as her tough guy husband; Bryan Cranston, a guy who hasn’t seemed to learn when not to take a chance; Ron Perlman, a gruff ageing gangster with a massive chip on his shoulder and a really startling Albert Brooks is a man you absolutely never want to mess with.

Drive_Ryan GoslingBut every noir has a hero (or antihero) at its centre and this one’s no different. However here its a nameless guy ‘the driver’, who at first glance has the same quietness that usually inhabits this genre – he’s a man of few words (nicely chosen by screenwriter Hossein Amini from James Sallis’ book) – but as the film motors along, you start to sense a ferocious, simmering intensity that hides a dangerous anger just below his silent surface.

It’s a fabulous performance from Ryan Gosling – not for me, beating his exquisite portrayal that lead The Ides of March though, which I thought was one of the best of the year and annoyingly not included in the awards round – but it’s one that ranks with Half Nelson and Blue Valentine as a spot-on study of a man in turmoil.

Refn as a strong visual style as a director and like his previous film Bronson, we see him constructing beautiful shots with painterly accuracy and depth. Drive is violent though but the violence is well handed – brief, shocking and then the camera pulls away. And then there’s the driving, which is also brief, exhilarating and excellently executed. I’ll certainly give Drive another go and as Refn and Gosling have struck a chord with one another and are collaborating again, I look forward to what the next model will look like.

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