Up and coming director Nicolas Winding Refn, who hails from Denmark, has made a very bold statement with his first mainstream Hollywood effort. Best known previously for his direction of critically acclaimed films like Bronson and Valhalla Rising, Drive will definitely get his career going full speed ahead as he brings us a story full of understated drama contrasted by brutally intense action sequences.
The main appeal of Drive is in the pacing of the film which often feels like you are quietly moving along in cruise control enjoying beautifully filmed scenery, but soon steps on the gas and kicks up the action sequences to levels that Tarentino would be proud of. The deliberate style of film making allows you to enjoy the performances of the actors as each of them brings the best of what they have to their respective roles.
The film stars Ryan Gosling in a role the redefines the type of actor he can be and also features standout performances by Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, and Albert Brooks. Carey Mulligan is simply beautiful in the role of Irene who's husband is about to be released from prison but chooses to begin a relationship with the driver that is in danger of becoming more than just a friendship.
Gosling's character, simply named in the credits as "Driver", is a man of very few words but has a genuine passion for the things he cares about and he plays the role so perfectly quiet that you find yourself paying attention to the emotion behind his eyes and facial expressions and are surprised when he actually does have something to say.
A mechanic and movie stunt driver by day, 'Driver' also moonlights as a getaway guy for whoever will provide the right amount of money while also providing complete discretion. Aspiring to become a race car driver thanks to the owner of the shop he works at (played unexpectedly well by Bryan Cranston), he sees a new direction in his professional life at the same time he meets Irene who, along with her son, make a very strong impact on his personal life.
This intricate and emotional tale begins to unravel when the driver joins Irene's husband on a job that will help the man pay off debts owed to the criminal figures that kept him safe while in prison. This ultimately leads down a road that changes everyone's lives forever and brings the story around that final corner and straight in to the explosive third act.
Be prepared for some extremely graphic fight scenes that are even more shocking because of how the director leads you in to them with moments that would be nearly silent if not for the beautifully haunting soundtrack. The music goes from classical to modern electronic and often intertwines the two to achieve what I feel is one of the best and most perfectly fitting movie soundtracks I have heard in some time.
Overall this is a very well put together drama that may not be for everyone, but hits home in a realistic way as if Michael Mann and Quentin Tarentino got together and melded their directing styles. Moody and intense mixed with brilliant dialog, ferociously violent moments of action, and a score that fits and enhances the movie perfectly, this is the type of film that sticks with you long after the credits role.
The trailer below really drives home the style and tone of the film.