Movie Reviews

Review: Drive (2011)

Nicholas Winding Refn

Ryan Gosling
Carey Mulligan
Bryan Cranston
Albert Brooks
Ron Perlman
Oscar Isaac

A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.

Having recently started a new job, I have unfortunately not gotten a chance to do much writing for the site. Luckily this has been one of the weakest summers for films, and there was nothing truly memorable for me to make time and write a review for it. Now that summer is over, awards season begins and hits the highest note possible right off the bat with Drive.

The film starts off with what might be the greatest opening sequence ever put on screen, setting a perfect tone for the rest of the running time. While the film has a number of terrific action set pieces, those would mean nothing unless we had some sort of attachment to the characters involved. Director Nicholas Winding Refn perfectly casts the film with actors who are able to make characters feel like real people. Gosling is stunning in this film, having a real Steve McQueen-like sense to him as he is able to say more without having to speak a word. His performance is decidedly calm, cool, and quiet with outbursts of violence and great intensity – much like Drive itself. Carey Mulligan isn’t given much to work with here, but makes the most of what she has and puts a memorable stamp on the film. The early scenes between her and Gosling are effective, setting up a complex, but respectful relationship. Bryan Cranston and Oscar Isaac are exceptional in their roles, but it is comedian Albert Brooks who leads the supporting cast with a grounded performance that can be terrifying and unpredictable one moment, and heartfelt and sympathetic the next. Brooks should garner a Best Supporting actor nomination for his work here. I could talk about these characters all day long, as each of them is given so much depth and realism to them, thanks to both the actors and the screenplay.

How this film ultimately turned out is all thanks to Refn, who directs with a stylish and realistic eye. He has given us something Hollywood has not in a very long time: an original and meaningful film. Refn should at the very least get a nomination for his work here, because in anyone else’s hands, I would not even be writing this review right now. Essential decisions to the realism of the car chases, the violence, and the motivations of the characters make this film unforgettable. I saw this film opening night and have been able to think about little else in the last couple of days. This is one film that must be seen in theaters, arguably more than once. The very realistic sound of gunshots, the rev of the engines, the screech of the tires, the shocking action sequences… all must be seen in a theater setting.

Simply put, this film is spectacular. It is everything I want out of a film. Drive takes a familiar premise (wheelman betrayed and out for revenge) and presents it in a completely different fashion. The film is stylish, intense, original, existential, and offers an effective romantic storyline as well. Drive is almost dream-like in how it is put on the screen, with harsh callbacks to reality with some shocking but realistic violence. It is like a dream that turns into a nightmare – but not for the viewer. This is a film I hope both movie-going audiences and film buffs can thoroughly enjoy. It doesn’t quite have that “independent” feel, but still offers something completely original. This may be one of my favorite films of all-time, but I plan on seeing it a few more times before anything is set in stone.

I cannot recommend this film enough. If you are into action movies, you will love it; if you enjoy a good romance in your thriller, you will love it; if you are a film buff and are just dying to see a movie worth your money after a summer like this, you will love the quality of filmmaking, acting, and storytelling in Drive. Please tell everyone you know to go see this film, and don’t be surprised when you see it turn up at the Academy Awards next year.

Rating: R for strong bloody brutal violence, language, and some nudity

Runtime: 100 minutes

Grade: A+

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