Sunday, 12 February 2012

2011 films: #10


Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Even if Drive was a poor movie, it’d still be worth seeing – if only for Carey Mulligan and Ryan Gosling. The latter managed two classic performances in 2011 (the other is further up the list), and the former could well be the best young female actress in business today. Still, however great the film’s acting may be, Drive offers a lot more than that.

Drive is all about style. It starts in a very slick, very cool sort way – with a getaway driver helping two robbers leave the crime scene. And then it comes: the cheap, addictive beats of an electronic pop song accompanied by some gaudy, truly awful fonts. Somehow, though, it doesn’t feel repugnant – it feels intriguing. It gives you a perfect idea of what you’re going to get: cheap, sometimes overtly tasteless ways wrapped in style. You can’t look away. 

Driver (we never get to know his name) is a stunt performer during the day and a getaway driver by night. He lives next door to a young woman called Irene, and you constantly sense a certain deep mutual affection between the two. Except that soon Irene’s husband returns from jail and is immediately bullied by a criminal gang from his past. Driver helps – to ensure the safety and happiness of Irene and her small son. Contrasts of this kind underpin the film. Scenes of most disturbing, gory (you could even say tasteless) violence are alternated with the warm, placid episodes involving Driver and Irene (it reaches its climax in the elevator scene that is as moving as it is sticky). Actually, the way Gosling manages to combine the brutal cool with the tender calm is nothing short of miraculous.

Perhaps, what truly drives (no pun intended) this film is its atmosphere. Both edgy and laidback, it yet again proves how important it is for a work of art to be based on a juxtaposition. Drive is indeed a very rare thing: a psychological car movie. Slightly overproduced, slightly overstuffed with style – but full of undeniable emotional intensity. With cheap synths in the background.

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