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Drive is a much different film then many will expect, and that's a very good thing. By no means is it your typical Hollywood film that features many car chases instead it's action pops up due to the story driving it's main character to resort to violence. Drive has a familiar plot but due to the excellent directing of Nicolas Winding Refn it stands out above the rest. Refn did a fantastic job building tension and giving the viewer just enough action. At times due to the score by composer Cliff Martinez, the film did feel as if it was set in the 80's. The film will lose many people in the first twenty minutes as it has a very slow build due to the main character, who is named Driver, and his cold silent self says maybe five words throughout the beginning of the film. Driver is built up as a great driver if not the best by his boss, Shannon, who acts as a father to him. Shannon gets Driver jobs as a stunt driver for Hollywood films and during the nights he is a wheel man for various crimes. The opening sequence is incredibly intense as it shows Driver's ability to blend in, which causes more tension, rather then use his car's high horsepower.
The film then hits a bit of lull, but it is only to build the characters, something that has been forgotten in films of this kind as of late (Transporter, Fast and the Furious and other films of that nature). Driver is a loner who would rather be out driving his cars listening to synth-pop instead of sitting at his seemingly empty apartment until one day he helps his attractive neighbor Irene with her car. The two instantly have a connection despite the fact they hardly speak to each other, which goes to show how talented the two actors are. Driver and Irene seem to say so much to each other with a simple glance instead of bloated dialogue. Things hit a snag between the two when Irene's husband and her son Benicio's father, Standard (Oscar Isaac), is released from jail and comes home. Standard's arrival forces a bit of a strain between Driver and Irene, and during his homecoming party Irene can't seem to stay at the party as she'd rather be with Driver. Driver stays away for quite sometime up until he sees that because of Standard's presence, Irene and Benicio is now in danger. Standard owes money to the mob for protection he recieved while he was in jail, and is told to rob a pawn shop and if he doesn't they will kill Irene and Benicio. Driver decides to help Standard pull of the job and be his getaway driver with some help from Blanche (Christina Hendricks) who seems to be just a bit of eye candy for the little bit of the film she is in.
The heist goes wrong, and gets Driver involved with some bad people as the mob then targets him. The mob finds Driver hiding in a hotel room immediately after the heist and the scene is a bit reminiscent of Scarface in some regards but is also very well done. After Driver dispatches of the two mobsters that come barging in his room with shotguns, Refn makes good use of lighting. Driver's face is covered in blood and light shines brightly on his face up until he slowly retreats into the dark where he stares into the camera. It is almost a representation of his character as up until this point we have not seen any indication of him having a bit of a dark side and how the old reserved Driver is gone. After this scene the film really hits it's mark and never seems to slow down. Driver begins to do whatever is necessary from here on out to protect himself, Irene and Benicio from the mob and begins to really go off the deep end.
The film in my opinion is a must-see movie. It isn't your typical movie and that is because of Refn's directing, it has the tone of a foreign film, but that may just be what sets it above other films of it's kind. It certain benefits from a great performance by Ryan Gosling. Gosling has often been cast as a heartthrob of sorts in films like The Notebook, Blue Valentine and seeing how this is his first action film of sorts, he owns in it and brings a presence that is felt throughout the entire film. He does a great job with his character, despite having limited lines, he makes his character say a lot with a simple glance. He also handles the emotional scenes very feel, and one of the best scenes in the film comes midway through as he embraces the Irene character and kisses her as it may just be the last time they see each other.
Carey Mulligan also does a very good job in the limited time she has with her role as Irene. It helps that she has a great chemistry with Ryan Gosling throughout the film, as that is exponentially crucial seeing how the two hardly talk to each other in their scenes. She is instantly likable as the mother who does whatever it takes to keep things afloat for herself and her son Benicio.
Bryan Cranston provides a good quasi-father role as Shannon and in little screen time manages to make his character pretty well understood. Albert Brooks manages to pull off the role of Bernie, the mob boss very well to the surprise of many. It is a very different role for him, but he manages to make his character fairly intimidating despite the fact his character doesn't do anything menacing up until the latter parts of the film. Ron Perlman plays Nino, Bernie's partner in crime, and does just what we expect from him.
As I've said before, this film is a must-see due to the excellent direction by Nicolas Winding Refn and terrific performance given by Ryan Gosling. It will certainly disappoint a few who would much rather see explosions, sex, and bloated dialogue but this film has something those lack, substance. Some may say the film is weird, I say the film is a budding cult classic.