Movie of the week, Feb. 16 2012: Drive

Welcome back to Pwrcord’s movie of the Week segment, where one of our writers gives us a look at their favorite films. This week, Brendan gives us a look a Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest thriller, Drive.

I guess we’ve got a theme going here, we’ve had Nicholos Winding Refn flicks as our movie of the week for two weeks in a row! There’s a good reason for that, too: his movies are great. At least, we think they are. His latest movie is the excellent Drive.

I only recently saw this movie, but already it’s become a favorite of mine, and along with Bronson and Valhalla Rising, has solidified Refn as one of my favorite directors as well.

What it is: On the surface, Drive seems as if it would fall into the “Fast and Furious” car-action genre of movies that were popular in the mid-2000’s. Within the first few moments, it is clear Drive is far removed from that batch of contrived and over-produced schlock.

Drive is a crime-thriller, with highly stylized cinematography and a near-claustrophobic atmosphere. There’s a heavy dose of 80’s action/thriller in there as well. The plot revolves around a young, nameless stunt driver, played by Ryan Gosling. By day, he drives cars for Hollywood’s big car chases and crash scenes; by night, he acts as a get-away-driver for hire. The Driver becomes enamored with his neighbor Irene (Carrey Mulligan) and her young son Benicio (Kaden Leos). They develop a close friendship — with allusions to romantic involvement. But when Irene’s husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) returns after a stint in prison, the Driver becomes involved with a heist that goes terribly wrong — and must work to fix it.

The cast is rounded out with Bryan Cranston as the Driver’s friend and manager Shannon, and Albert Ross and Ron Pearlman as gangsters Benie Ross and Nino, respectively.

Why I love it: Well, in my eyes, there little NOT to like. Winding Refn’s unique direction and cinematography creates such a profound sense of urgency and tension, and in Drive his technique has never worked better. I’m not saying that Bronson or Valhalla didn’t work — quite the contrary in fact — but this is by far his best work as a director.

Granted, his style isn’t for everyone; long shots with no dialogue, slow motion, montages, and a minimalist electronic music soundtrack aren’t exactly mainstream friendly practices. But for me, it’s some of the most compelling film-making I’ve ever seen.

This is no more evident than in the way he can boost an actor’s performance. Ryan Gosling and Bryan Cranston already offer fantastic performances, and create deep characters with little dialogue, but the cinematography and pacing increases those moments astronomically. Winding Refn can take a rather understated and quiet character (Gosling’s Driver, Tom Hardy’s Charles Bronson, or Mads Mikkleson’s One Eye) and turn them into powerful and interesting personalities.

Wrapping up, pretty much everything about Drive is fantastically executed. From the direction and great script, to the acting, and even the brief (but intense) action moments, everything comes together well. And thanks to great editing and pacing, nothing feels wasted. For me, Drive offers damn near everything I would want out of a movie from this genre — or really just most movies in general. It convinced me of Nicolas Winding Refn’s directing chops, and reinforced my admiration for Ryan Gosling, Bryan Cranston and Ron Pearlman.

It’s a violent, intense, yet immensely satisfying movie.

(Plus, the Driver’s shoes are fucking rad!)

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