Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn – 2011) A-

It’s a really well made genre film. We’ve seen many that deal with a similar theme. The mysterious tough guy, the damsel in distress, her ex-con husband, a bag of money and a some really bad guys. Drive though manages to make a brilliant film from these themes that is at once unique, new and familiar. The opening scene alone is worth your time where we meet the “driver” played by Ryan Gosling (we never get his name) who is driving a couple of crooks from a heist they just accomplished. What we expect is a high speed chase, what we get is a fascinating cat and mouse game and a perfectly directed image of restraint. Restraint is really a good way of describing most of Drive, it’s all about build up and tension and what is not said. Goseling plays the driver character with very little words and takes what seems like forever sometimes to answer a simple question. We get the feeling, especially after the insane violent spurts, that he has a very interesting history. A typical film would’ve gone to great pains explaining his “background” to us and how “dangerous” he is. Drive just lets us contemplate and imagine where this odd stranger came from.

The direction reminds me a bit of a Tarantino film minus the dialogue. Refn is obviously channeling 80s action flicks (love the opening pink script and song) and he builds every scene meticulously with tension building and building until violence just explodes on the screen. One of my favorite scenes occurs when the driver, the aforementioned damsel in distress (I really don’t have that much patience to detail that part of the film) and a bad guy share an elevator. I hate to spoil it, but every look and move in that short scene is perfect and the climax is…graphic. Performances all around are great here and Albert Brooks especially delivers an uncharacteristically dramatic and evil role.

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