This is my first attempt at a review, so here goes: I went to the first showing of Drive earlier today after weeks of hearing nothing but positive adoration from sites like IndieWire, Deadline, THR and countless others and am delighted to say this indie-standout is not a let-down. From the first car chase that opens the film, we are left with a feeling of pure adrenaline that entices us and sustains us throughout its entirety.
Ryan Gosling (Stupid, Crazy, Love), only known as the Driver, leads a double life, working as a stuntman for the movies during the day and moon-lighting as a getaway driver for criminals during the night. The stoic, yet shy Gosling eventually befriends his neighbor Irene, played by Carey Mulligan (An Education) and son Benicio and a quiet romance soon develops between the two. Things quickly get complicated when Irene's husband is released from prison and returns home to make amends for the sins of his past. The plot further thickens when Irene's husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) is unable to pay back money he owed from prison and finds himself unable to find a solution when his family is threatened. That's where our Driver comes in; he agrees to be the getaway driver for Standard in a pawn-shop robbery that goes horribly and gruesomely wrong. From that dark turning point, Gosling's character tries desperately to make things right, get himself out of the situation and make sure Irene and Benicio are safe, all while driving like a bad-ass the entire time.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn (Valhalla Rising) directs with impressionable style. The car chases are action-packed, yet stylish and edited with an organized precision that won't give you a headache (perhaps Michael Bay would like to take note on this). Different camera angles of the chases, juxtaposed with a camera view behind the wheel leaves one with the floaty feeling of actually being in the Driver's seat. The film is full of these action-on-steroid sequences, but have no doubt it's a well-paced drama with a surreal style, not far from reminiscent of an 80's vibe. And I"m not talking about Miami Vice 80's; Winding Refn's film is definitely an art-house picture with a style of its own. Stunning cinematography and a dreamlike soundtrack add to this style.
Gosling, however, leads this power-house of a film with a poignant performance, acting with silent emotion (he has few lines in the film) and pulls his own weight against solid performances from an incredible supporting cast, which include: Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Albert Brooks (Defending Your Life--I see an oscar nomination in the coming months), Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy) and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men).
It's visually a beautiful and stunningly crafted film with memorable characters, lines and even clothing (I expect outlets to start selling the Driver's trademark scorpion jacket soon) that will not disappoint. Ultimately, Drive is like....well, just that-- an adrenaline-filled drive you never want to end and will want to hop back in the seat as soon as it's over for the second ride.