Sunday, October 02, 2011

#210: Drive

The most creditable thing to note about the 2011 American movie Drive is that it won its director Nicholas Winding Refn the Best Director Award at Cannes. When a director makes such an elite list that features names like Bresson, Bergman, Truffaut, Scorcese and Wong Kar-Wai one can't help but be curious of what might have Winding Refn conjured to become a part of that list. The answer to my mind is 'just enough'.

Drive is essentially an action film replete with car chases, killings and money to be won at the end of the day. The lead character is an unnamed Driver played by Ryan Gosling who is a stunt double by day and a racer by night who helps burglars plan their getaway after a job. He stays alone and life is fairly listless except the presence of an elder garage owner Shannon (Bryan Cranston) at whose place the driver also works from time to time. Shannon is keen to have the Driver race in a competition and takes monetary assistance from the shady business duo of Bernie (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman). The Driver meanwhile finds a romantic interest in his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) whose husband Standard (Oscar Issac) has just been released from prison. Irene's husband owes some money to a set of crooks who ask him to rob a pawn shop. Standard is reluctant but knowing that Irene's and their son's life maybe in danger if he says no, agrees to take the job with help from the Driver.

The job goes horribly wrong and after the boring first 40 minutes of the movie, Amein Hosseini's adapted screenplay from thr James Saliis novel takes an exciting turn. It picks up a frenetic paces as the Driver takes the reins of action in his hands. He unravels the reasons behind the mess up at the robbery and comes across one revelation after another. While Irene's character takes a backseat, it becomes clear that the motivation for the Driver's involvement in this high-stake chase of the unknown, is his own love and affection for her. Ryan Gosling does well for his steely character that was reminiscent of Luc Besson's Leon. Winding Refn does extract equally strong performances from the rest of the cast even as the purposive ruthlessness of Albert Brooks' performance gives the movie an added edge. Drive is filmed beautifully by Newton Thomas Segel (Usual Suspects, X-Men, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) and in spite of the sporadic scenes of action and violence retains a subtext of human emotion in the shots.

Drive requires some patience to get used to its idea but it holds your attention once the plot starts unfolding. I had a miserable time sitting through it for the first half an hour but after a pivotal car chase, one sees enough potential to be wide awake for the rest of the movie. It also has a smartly filmed climax that's let down slightly by a weak ending but overall Drive indeed does enough to merit a recommend.

Rating: 6.4/10

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