Ryan Gosling is the quiet centre of director Nicolas Winding Refn’s L.A.-set, noir-like thriller DRIVE.
How can someone want to sue director Nicolas Winding Refn after seeing his latest film DRIVE because there isn’t enough driving in it?!? I don’t think the title is necessarily literal, you not-very-bright person!
This visually arresting and violent noir set in present-day L.A. is going to be one of those films that reward you with more each time you see it, so I’m already looking forward to seeing it again. It’s gorgeous to look at – extraordinary panoramic night shots of L.A. by Refn and his amazing director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel and a pulsing, hypnotic score by Cliff Martinez.
And it has an absolutely kick-ass cast. Christina Hendricks takes time off from TV’s Mad Men to portray Blanche, a pouting modern-day moll. Carey Mulligan builds on her sensational debut in An Education as Irene, a seemingly calm, sweet mum and Oscar Isaac kills it in a few scenes as Standard, her tough-guy husband. Bryan Cranston is Shannon, a guy who hasn’t seemed to learn when not to take a chance, quite the opposite of his iconic TV role in Breaking Bad. The marvellous Ron Perlman is Nino, a gruff, ageing gangster with a massive chip on his shoulder and lastly, there’s a really startling Albert Brooks as Bernie Rose, a man you absolutely never want to mess with – brilliant.
But every noir has a hero (or anti-hero) at its centre and this one’s no different. However here it’s a nameless guy ‘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 just below his silent surface. It’s a fabulous performance from Ryan Gosling – not for me, beating his exquisite portrayal in last year’s The Ides of March which I thought was one of the best of 2011 and annoyingly not included in the awards season – but it’s one that ranks with Half Nelson and Blue Valentine as a spot-on study of a man in turmoil.
Nicolas Winding 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 so bring a strong stomach but the violence is well handled – brief, shocking and then the camera pulls away. And then there’s the driving, which is exhilarating and excellently executed.
I’ll certainly give DRIVE another spin soon 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.