Driver (Ryan Gosling) is an introvert who makes his living behind the wheel; a Hollywood stunt driver by day and getaway driver by night. When he becomes involved with married Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos) Driver finds himself submerged in an underground world of crime.
With Nicholas Winding Refn, the maverick Danish director behind ultra-crazy indies ‘Bronson’ and ‘Valhalla Rising’, coupled with romantic regular, Ryan Gosling, eyebrows were raised over how ‘Driver’ would pull it off. 100 minutes later and it’s safe to say the product is something so visually and audibly arresting that you might wish to remain in your cinema seat after the credits roll.
Every scene of this glorious neo-noir is pervaded by dichotomy. From the emotional disparity showcased with Driver and love interest Irene through to the competing imagery between lingering shadows and flashes of startling light, the audience is treated to a non-stop procession. Refn has left no detail unmanaged, the atmosphere is perfectly crafted and soaked in iconography.
During a furtive car chase through the streets of LA, Driver appears emotionless and unmoved, a later car chase is screened with the absence of any noise whatsoever and Driver shares his first kiss with Irene immediately before the film’s most violent scene. Refn embraces opposites and treats them as one.
As Refn is sparing on the explosion factor, Gosling approaches his character with calculated simplicity. Carrying himself with a balance of quiet poise and bridled aggression throughout, he has managed to cultivate a character who is simultaneously hushed and bold; calm but with a sunken threat of raw visceral violence. Driver’s character requires Gosling to flaunt and juggle hosts of emotions; skill, ignorance, passion, indifference, love, hate and so much more; often in the same scene. In this we see a showcase of Gosling’s developing and versatile talent, especially considering he was last seen as a roguish play boy in rom-com ‘Crazy Stupid Love’.
In a recent interview, Refn described ‘Drive’ as a homage to his 80s youth, “a movie about a man who drives around listening to music because that’s the only way he can feel.” Well, with the aid of Gosling, he has created something majestic that will likely inspire a few cinemagoers into wistful volume-cranking behind the wheel. An outstandingly original, truly captivating experience from start to finish.