well, a quick check of my own site suggests that the last time i sat and watched a full, new film was last November, such is the way of life. oddly, that one featured Ron Perlman too, as did the one i was able to see at the weekend. a pure co-incidence i assure you, not that there is anything wrong with Ron.
as i had an afternoon to myself i thought it best to try and catch up with at least one movie from a long list of films i wish to see, and where better to start than with the much celebrated Drive? for those unfamiliar with the title, well up front it's a film that many have described as being if not the best then one of the best two films of 2011, and there is general confusion, outrage and anger that it failed to register so much as a nomination at the imminent Oscars. well, Oscars are a dangerous measure for the quality of films (Stanley Kubrick did not get one for directing ever, Mel Gibson has one or two for Braveheart of all things), but the protests about it not getting any recognition meant that it deserved a mention.
for those looking for a quick, spoiler-free review, here it is - Drive is one of the most exceptional films i have ever seen and, presuming you have a tolerance for some extreme onscreen violence, i advise you to see the film as soon as possible. for those looking for more detail, carry on reading after the poster but be warned for **** SPOILER WARNINGS **** are applicable from here on out.
the plot centres on an unnamed protagonist (Ryan Gosling) who appears to be more of a master than a jack of all trades. he is a gifted mechanic, a stunt driver for movies and indeed a part-time getaway driver for movies. he appears to lead a life of solitude, mostly in silence, until chance meetings with his neighbour (Carey Mulligan) breeds a dangerous attraction owing to his neighbour's life (her husband is due to be released from prison soon), drawing him into a world where his solitude, silence and skills are tested to the full.
if all of that sounds somehow familiar, well, it is really. although ostensibly based on a 2000s published book by James Sallis, this film basically channels the very finest of lone, anti-hero protagonists. up front, Gosling is known and listed only as The Driver, as was Ryan O'Neill in the film The Driver, which can be seen as little more than a nod to how much this film owes to that 70s classic. beyond that, Gosling's character appears to share the same willingless to silently deny a past as was the case with Eastwood's character in A Fistful Of Dollars and to a lesser extent Pale Rider, as well as the proclivity to cling to some form of human contact at whatever personal cost as was the case with Mel Gibson as the titular character in Mad Max 2.
throw in the above films and a couple of Steve McQueen classics, The Getaway in particular, and you have the basic components of the film. and yet, somehow despite this and the obvious nods (there's a part, without giving too much away, that is a direct reference to Ryan O'Neill's famous "audition" scene in The Driver) it stands very much as its own thing. it does this by pretty much removing the obvious definition or interpretation of the title of the film rather early on.
let us get this clear - those of you hoping for a Mad Max or even The Fast And The Furious type of thing are in for one major disappointment. Outside of two scenes, the fact that The Driver is an expert driver is all but irrelevant to the film. The focus of the word drive in the film Drive is very much what drives one to do what they do in life, and how they take that ride.
underlining this is the distinctly minimalist approach taken. Gosling's character is indeed the strong, silent type (a threat of violence some 40 minutes into the film is more or less the first thing he says in the film beyond an opening monologue), and this to a noticeable extent extends across the whole narravtive. nothing is ever particularly hammered out or made clear for the audience, but that's not to say it is one of those ambiguous, "open to interpretation" and indeed confusing films. far from it - it's all rather linear, and pretty straightforward to understand.
this is all made possible by rather deft, exquisite and dare i say beautiful film-making by director Nicolas Winding Refn, and indeed the supporting cast.
Drive relies on a second person narrative, provided by in part Carey Mulligan, but perhaps mostly by the characters played by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman. to focus on those two first, and my what a superb slice of casting this turns out to be. these two play somewhat lightweight but rather dangerous mobsters, pushing for the big time and, through as it turns out different ways, are reliant on The Driver to both make the bigger money and stay alive.
as good as those two are (well, OK, Albert Brooks is excellent, Ron Perlman 'does his job', as it were), the real driver of the story has to be Carey Mulligan's character. she has been quoted as saying that she felt all she did in the film was "hang around and stare longingly at Ryan Gosling", but there's a good deal more to her performance than that. far from being the stereotyped "girl who the protagonist likes" part, her character has a good deal of substance and strength and required a strong, outstanding performance to make sure the whole story gets told properly. this Ms Mulligan does with some formidable talent. i am unaware of seeing her in anything else, i shall certainly be looking to see more of her films.
as for the lead actor, well, i cannot claim to have seen Ryan Gosling in anything before, at least i certainly do not remember him being particularly outstanding. Drive changes all of that. he is superb, giving one of the finest acting performances i have seen for a very long time indeed. i dare say lazy critics have dismissed him as simply "channelling Eastwood and McQueen" in respect of being the solitary, silent protagonist, but doing that sort of thing and making it your own is not the easiest thing in the world to do. if the others i mentioned tell the story, then it is Gosling's performance which makes the film what it is. he creates a plausible protagonist with the minimalist approach and is rather engaging. the audience feels and experiences every slice of the good and the bad that happens to him, something rare these days.
the main controversy around the film appears to be the level of violence in it. to be honest, there are not all that many violent moments in the film (certainly not what i had been led to expect, at the least), but when they do occur they are abrupt, stark and unapologetic. most of the violence is further implied rather than seen, but such is the shock value of the moments that they happen it feels like you've seen something you have not - Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs did the same, and indeed courted the same controversy.
a few reviews i have seen suggest that the violence "has no place" in he film and thus appears to be gratuitous, but my leaning is to disagree with that. we do not know, after all, what sort of past The Driver has fled to be where he is when we meet him, and the other central characters, to various degrees, have a history of violence (either implicit or exposed) that comes with them. some of the sequences are certainly difficult to watch, but i would dismiss all claims that they are just there in the film for the sake of it.
was it the violence that led to this fine, fine film being more or less snubbed by the members of the Oscars? most likely yes it was, really. i see that Drive was initially going to be directed by Neil Jordan and feature Hugh Jackman in the lead. just how bad that version would have been is anyone's guess, but you can be pretty sure that those two industry favourites would have made sure that the violent content was toned down just enough to the level of making it hopeful Oscar bait.
for me the Oscars have become of increasing irrelevance since they started awarding horrid, awful films like American Beauty and The Hurt Locker for purely political and vanity reasons. if the awards really were a true reflection of the best films of any particular year then this one would feature very strongly on the list of nominations. let them get on with celebrating Spielberg, Clooney and Pitt for being really nice people who make lots of money; film lovers will instead know that this is a true classic of cinema. i suspect i will have to seek out and watch the dire sounding list of nominated movies just to see in what way they are somehow better than Drive.
i suspect that if you have read all of this there is no need for me to say "you really should try and see this film if you have not done so already". the praise and acclaim placed on this film is worth every single letter of it. bravo to all involved, i look forward with some considerable interest to seeing what the actors and indeed the director do next.
in closing, one thing bugging me is exactly who the mask is of that Ryan Gosling needs to wear at one point in the film. i cannot find any further information about the mask on the internet, so have to ask here. have a look at thos screenshot of it.
who does that look like to you? my initial reaction is that this is a facemask of no less than Tom Cruise, possibly for the character he played in the magnificent Tropic Thunder. who do you think it might be if not the Cruiser?
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!