A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
What a year this was.
The endless amount of incredible releases made 2011 one hell of a year for films. “Drive”, one of the most enthralling and surprising pictures was nothing like audiences expected, and thank goodness for that!
For me, it was “The Artist” that took home the gold for the best release of year, however it only surpassed “Drive” by a slither – this is not only the best we’ve seen of Ryan Gosling, it’s one of the most underrated and under appreciated pieces of clever, unique cinema to come out of Hollywood in the past half decade, even if it did make $35,000,000 – it deserves to have made more, much, much more.
The very impressive Ryan Gosling plays ‘The Driver’; a skilful stunt car driver / mechanic / getaway chauffeur who gets tangled in the relentless and scary world of crime.
Lonely, distanced and meticulous, ‘The Driver’ is a unique character that remains a mystery for the majority of the film.
It’s only after he meets his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) that things begin to unravel. We don’t know his name, but it doesn’t matter. Personally, I prefer it; a name can trample on so much intrigue and illusion regarding a character, particularly one as badass as ‘The Driver’.
The plot is one that should be summed up relatively simplistically. It’s basically not what you’d expect from the trailers at all.
There were initial complaints about the film upon initial release with audiences claiming it to be misleading and boring. There aren’t as many car chases as you’d expect, there isn’t much in the way of explosive action; that’s all pushed aside for an actual story, one that is so much more enticing than any car chase.
That’s not to say he film isn’t gruesome, it has it’s fair share of gratuitous violence, that’s for sure!
Director Nicolas Winding Refn has delivered a modern gem with “Drive”. Winning the ‘Best Director’ award at Cannes says it all.
It’s so diverse, so immersive and captivating like nothing else from the year. It’s not enjoyable in the same way “The Artist” is, it’s enjoyable in the way that a David Fincher film is enjoyable – the disturbing inconspicuousness that ironically captures your attention is all there in “Drive” and boy am I thankful for that! Refn’s other works including “Only God Forgives” and “Bronson” aren’t what you’d call ‘family friendly flicks’, they all share a very unsettling and disturbing quality that is utilised ever so well, particularly in “Drive”, which I feel is by far his best work.
One of my favourite qualities of the film is it’s soundtrack. I don’t believe there has been a better opening sequence to a film dealing with the element of a getaway chase and the opening song choices are the icing on the cake.
The editing, lighting and cinematography overall is superb, with an obvious attention to detail being on show, leaving nothing included that is not of some significance to the bigger picture. As previously mentioned, Gosling is at his very best in my opinion.
His emotional, impassioned performance as ‘The Driver’ is one of the reasons I couldn’t see anyone else playing the character and doing a better job – the role was made for Gosling, no question. He is able to mix confidence, diligence, violence, aggression, compassion, fear and overall badassery flawlessly, making for an incredible thrill-ride and character exploration.
Bryan Cranston is also perfect as usual, while Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac and Albert Brooks are stellar in their roles. There is so much tension and uncertainty amongst the characters and it all ties in with one of the film’s underlying themes – a fable.
The story appears to structure itself like the tale of the scorpion and the frog.
There are several symbolic gestures as well as dialogue-based references to this throughout the film, but what is most special about the link between the characters and the tale is that the audience can literally choose who they want to be the frog and who they want to be the scorpion at many stages of the film; it may not be as clear as it appears.
This is a truly depressing film. It has an effect like few others out there. It’s exhausting, damaging and really visually striking. With the slow-paced nature of the middle acts and the dulled-down music accompanying it mixed with limited moments of optimism, “Drive” may truly be one of the most powerful I’ve experienced in recent years.
After watching it for a second time and for it to have an equal, if not, a greater effect on me, that surely has to credit the film immensely.
This is not for the feint of heart, but at the same time, it’s not for the typical “Transformers” fan who expects endless, stupid action crammed into their absent minds.
This is a film for those who enjoy professional character development with a deep and moving story.
I kind of want a scorpion jacket to wear when I next buy a hammer…I should also get my license sometime soon too…