232 of 290 people found the following review helpful
An Art-House Actioner That Blends Indie Cool With Mainstream Appeal: Watch Out For Spoilers And Enjoy The Ride,
This review is from: Drive (DVD)
In a year in which Ryan Gosling could do no wrong from romantic comedy (Crazy, Stupid, Love) to political drama (The Ides of March) to this art house actioner--"Drive" stands as the apex of his career-changing film streak. I have, for many years, declared Gosling perhaps the best actor of his generation. Ever since he burst onto the film scene in the controversial "The Believer," Gosling has eschewed being a mainstream "star." Heck, after "The Notebook," another actor might have taken a very different career path. But Gosling, despite a couple of disappointing forays into big budget Hollywood, has remained true to his indie roots. Until now, that is. This year, he seamlessly blended indie cool with mainstream appeal. Of course, in "Drive" he found the perfect filmmaker and artistic collaborator in Danish auteur Nicolas Winding Refn. The two began a very public bromance and have already embarked on their next film project (2012's Only God Forgives). Winding Refn is an ultra-cool writer/director whose resume is populated by some of my favorite international hits, and he picked up the Cannes Best Director prize for this. If you are unfamiliar with his work, I strongly suggest you invest in "The Pusher" trilogy--a series of films exploring the underbelly of the Copenhagen drug scene.
Well that's a lot of build-up to "Drive." But here's the thing, I'm not going to elaborate very specifically on this movie. Anyone who reveals too much is doing the movie a complete disservice. It is a film that is best left to unfold at its own pace with all surprises intact. The movie makes the most of its seedy Los Angeles setting. Gosling plays an unnamed stuntman who gets a sideline job working for a crime syndicate boss, played by an uncharacteristic Albert Brooks. All I will say is that things take an unexpected turn, and Gosling morphs from a virtually silent protagonist into a stone cold nightmare. It's an exciting transformation and one that will linger with you. This is modern noir at its finest, but with a decidedly art-house vibe. It combines an edgy urban seventies sensibility with the man-with-no-name western allure. I think many expected "Drive" to be a car movie or a non-stop action picture, but it is essentially a slow-burn character driven piece about how far one man can be pushed. But make no mistake, it continues to ramp up to extreme proportions before the blood soaked finale.
The filmmaking is top-notch throughout. There is an exquisite use of light, shadows, neon shadings, and arresting street level views of Los Angeles which make the visual appearance of the film quite spectacular. The odd techno-pop soundtrack is unorthodox, to be sure, but somehow fits perfectly. The editing and camera work is assured and edgy at the same time. And the effects are brutal and unforgettable. Add to that a great cast, and "Drive" becomes a can't miss proposition. Gosling shows a different side here, but the performance everyone will talk about is served by Brooks. Brooks paints one of the most memorable villains on screen this year, completely against type, and will probably be looking at serious awards consideration. Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman and Christina Hendricks help round out the cast. "Drive," ultimately, may not be for everyone and that's OK. Winding Refn has put together a near perfect film for adult audiences. If you check your expectations at the door, don't read spoilers, and settle in (oh and it helps if you aren't particularly squeamish)--this is a ride well worth taking. KGHarris, 12/11.
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Showing 1-10 of 22 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 11, 2011 10:55:32 AM PST
Dalia Wolfe says:
I couldn't have said it better myself! Great movie and a great review.
K. Harris, if you aren't a paid/working film critic, you should be. 5 stars!
Posted on Dec 14, 2011 3:58:07 AM PST
Great review. Came to this film after being a huge fan of the PUSHER trilogy. Trailer didn't make me think much would happen; boy was I wrong! If you like TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A., THIEF, MANHUNTER, and other similiar films, check this out immediately. Great atmosphere, unbelievable soundtrack, brilliant pacing, wonderful cinematography... just a perfect film in all reality. The atmosphere alone is something missing from most mainstream cinema nowadays. This straddled the line between mainstream and "arthouse" brilliantly and reminded me, tone-wise and atmospherically, of brilliant shows like BREAKING BAD (Cranston being cast in a role can't be a coincedence). Hard-edged and rewarding, the best film I saw in 2011, bar none.
Posted on Dec 26, 2011 6:40:29 PM PST
Cliff Hensley says:
I agree with everything about this review. I was going to write a review of my own on here, but since you said it so well I'll just give you my thumbs up. I've been a cineaste my whole life, and in a dearth of good filmmaking in the 21st Century, Drive is the "red pill" that woke me up and reminded me what truly amazing filmmaking is. It reinvigorated me as a moviegoer and catapulted Refn to the top of my list of respected film auteurs, neck-and-neck with my all-time favorite filmmaker, Darren Aronofsky. This was probably my favorite film of the last ten years, and really took me back to the late-80's/early-90's indie film spirit that made me fall in love with cinema. I heartily recommend anyone who enjoy movies with true COHESION--where acting, sound design, editing, shot framing, costume, color, and music all work together as a whole to evoke a true emotional response--check out this brilliant flick.
Posted on Jan 20, 2012 11:18:29 AM PST
A. Shurts says:
I'll echo what others have said. Excellent review!
Posted on Jan 21, 2012 10:17:32 AM PST
Great review - the soundtrack reminds me of 'Cat People' - Giorgio Moroder, with David Bowie's title song at the films end.
Posted on Jan 22, 2012 11:19:52 AM PST
Joshua Pedroso says:
Fantastic review for a fantastic film. On a side note, if you're bored, you should take a look at some of the one star reviews. Pretty entertaining stuff.
Posted on Jan 26, 2012 9:06:02 PM PST
Fabulous review! Please keep watching and reviewing movies :)
Posted on Jan 30, 2012 9:44:01 AM PST
Rosi H. says:
This is an excellent review, this movie touched me in a way I can't even explain and I can't wait to get my copy in the mail!!! Reading your review made me even more excited about getting my copy!!! Please keep on writing reviews!
Posted on Feb 3, 2012 6:56:43 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 3, 2012 7:08:14 AM PST
Mark O. Avery says:
Perusing the previous responses all I can do is echo the kudos!!
I'm a huge Gosling fan and this undeniably adds to my appreciation.
As stated, A. Brooks seriously shines as scum in this adventure
and I'm developing a fondness for Mulligan as well.
SUPERB REVIEW!! "The Ids of March" begins when this
Posted on Feb 4, 2012 10:29:22 AM PST