The already critically acclaimed Drive (directed by Nicolas Winding Refn) centres around a movie stunt driver/part time heist wheel man played by Ryan Gosling. As an audience, we are never privy to the name of Gosling’s character, he is referred to only as ‘The Driver’. After becoming close with his neighbour Irene, played by Carey Mulligan, and her son Benicio, the Driver agrees to assist Irene’s husband to carry out one last job upon his release from prison. Standard, Irene’s husband and the Driver must rob a pawnbroker on the outskirts of the city in order to pay off a debt and protect Irene and her son. However, the job goes horribly wrong as the Driver realises they have been double-crossed and the film sees our wheel man racing to protect Irene and her young son from vengeful gangsters eager to retrieve money stolen during the heist.
Refn does a tremendous job transporting the audience back to a glorious vision of the 1980’s while keeping the film firmly set in present day Los Angeles. The aerial shots of downtown LA appear beautifully peaceful despite the visual flow of traffic and bustle on the ground. Credit must also go to Gosling and Refn for portraying a character so out of place in modern society, yet within the confines of the motion picture, he fits in perfectly, wearing a Scorpion emblazoned silver satin jacket and chewing on a toothpick.
The soundtrack by Cliff Martinez provides the final touch to Refn’s 1980’s dynamic, with some beautifully composed ‘retro-synth-pop’. The mesmerising, Under Your Spell and uplifting, A Real Hero, are stand-out tracks that compliment the story arc and leave the audience feeling in awe of Drive’s overall experience.
Some may find the interactions between The Driver and other characters odd, but the minimal dialogue between Gosling’s Driver and Mulligan’s Irene only serve to enhance the emotional intensity between the pair. This seems to create an underlying tension throughout their scenes that explodes near the end of the film with a powerful sequence. The scene, partly shown in the movie trailer, is filmed without any discourse, as the Driver realises he and Irene have stepped into an elevator with a hit man intent on killing them both. As Gosling and Mulligan share one of the most perfect on-screen kisses, the audience are nervously awaiting the explosion of extreme violence that ensues as the Driver ‘removes’ the hit man from the narrative. The elements of this scene are typical of the entire film as Refn aspires to create intense emotions through imagery rather than the typical Hollywood method of spelling feelings out through basic dialogue. This film, and particularly this scene, which is preceded by several other moments of shocking violence in a film that initially feels like a love story, is definitely not for the faint hearted.
As Refn and Gosling told the L.A. Times earlier this year, they wanted to portray and recreate the emotional high of listening to pop music in the car and the ‘trance’ that it generates while driving. They have certainly succeeded and although Drive will go relatively unnoticed by the general population, it is deserved of all its critical plaudits. Perhaps in years to come this film will be looked upon with cult iconography. One can only hope.