Beginning like an updated version of Gone in Sixty Seconds, Bronson director Nicolas Winding Refn’s new action drama Driveputs its slick wheels in motion for a supposed heist flick, but settles into a dark ride of disturbing but exhilarating control.
Driver (Ryan Gosling) is a Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman for hire. After getting to know his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), whose husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) is later released from jail, Driver soon discovers that a contract has been put on him after one last heist with Standard to pay off a debt goes horribly wrong.
Drive is a juggernaut of emotion that tentatively and unknowingly builds up speed then knocks you for six with some uncompromising and ultra-violent scenes – much like the level of violence witnessed in Winding Refn’s acclaimed Bronson. Drive has its foot on full throttle without you knowing it as Winding Refn controls the pace with long deliberate pauses to allow his characters’ development and emotions to dominate the majority of the film. It’s complete with a powerhouse performance from Gosling, sexy and evoking car rides, and a cracking 80s-styled soundtrack that adds to any petrol head’s thrill at watching this.
Drive’s lead Gosling plays the mysterious Driver to perfection, adding to the bad boy appeal, with the actor putting on his best poker face, but still allowing us to warm to his character when there is very little dialogue to rely on, especially as Driver develops his relationship with Irene and shows his deep respect for garage owner Shannon (Bryan Cranston). Driver’s actions are gentle and thoughtful, done more out of protection than aggression, like some dark avenging angel, which is why when his back is against the wall, and the level of violent is so extreme, we’ve been broken in gently for big shocks that follow.
Mulligan as Irene is a surprise casting in such a supporting ‘gangster’s moll’ type of role. But she does bring an element of determination, respect and realism to young mother Irene, with her trademark defiance and absorbing vulnerability, in a role that could have been left wanting and without any worthy impact in the story, opposite the strong silent Driver. The only questionable pairing is Mulligan opposite Isaac as her jailbird husband that seems oddly matched and slightly unbelievable as the married couple.
Winding Refn’s Drive is an ode to a modern-day love tragedy, where violence goes hand in hand with burning passion, complete with oozing sex appeal and beautiful metal machines to ogle. Gosling captures the imagination in this like a latter-day Steve McQueen behind the wheel, and sets temperatures racing in one of the most intimately intense roles he’s played.
By Lisa Giles-Keddie