I have probably viewed one of the best films of recent times the other night, short in length yet make up for it in volume for what you get on-screen with Ryan Gosling who is indeed on fire in Drive (2011). Which sees a by day stunt driver and mechanic single handedly take on the world around him in Los Angles.
From the get go, we know we are in for a thrill-ride that like a race around town and many twist and turns, never looking back, always forward with the action. Pulling in for a few pit stops to take in an o-off romance with Irene (Carey Mulligan) who lives conveniently next door. We only know Goslings character by his job description, driver, opening up all kinds of possibilities for the audience who see man different men in combined into the lone man who wants to do what is right.
We first see Driver going about his night job as a getaway driver, staying impartial and cool under the pressure of the police pursuit that could draw the curtains on his night-time activities. He does it more for the thrill, knowing he has the upperhand, the skill to outsmart them, He treats it like a game or a science, with a radio tuned into the police frequency, whilst also listening to a game. One to distract him, the other to stay on top of it all , whilst he moves his car with great precision around night time L.A. Before we see the next day, him making a few bucks with his boss Shannon (Bryan Cranston) on film set. A man who means well to all he meets, throughout his life getting in over his head and paying the concequences all the time. It seems that Cranston is in a period of great success, from the early 2000s with Malcolm in the Middle to more recent a cult success Breaking Bad. He can do no wrong. Here he is the champion of the lone man who drives the streets, Much like Robert De Niro‘s Travis years before in Taxi Driver (1973). Everyone needs someone to root for.
What could be seen as just another possible romance between neighbours Driver and single mother Irene with her son, whilst her husband is in jail, is something more than just another screen romance, complete with sexual tension that goes untapped until one other tense scene in a lift that is destroyed in seconds. He wants to be there for a woman who wants the company of a man, whilst feeling obligated to her husband Standard (Oscar Issac) who is soon released from jail. The final element that brings everything that has been building to the epic second half. All the strands which could have been passing character start to come together. From the racing car syndicate owned by Shannon and Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and his gang ties with Nino (Ron Pearlman).
It’s Goslings presence as a macho driver complete with racing jacket of the scorpion that makes this all worth while, biting back in brutal fashion against all those who cross him. Wanting to get his neighbours out of an awful situation. Wearing it with pride, like a suit of armour that brings him more than just protection, it transforms him into a street fighter who can take on the world and all that it throws at him. Fighting for good, wanting to be fair to those who deserve it, which is reversed to the criminals who want to destroy the lives of innocent people.
Complete with heavy eighties tones of style and soundtrack that transports us to a world of speed and danger, the thrills of live on the edge whilst want to skirt away from it. A tender and techno soundtrack that emphasises the lone driver and the heroine who doesn’t know she’s being saved. Gosling becomes a Brando-esque figure who wants to save Mulligan’s princess from the thieves below her castle tower.
The sparse dialogue is made up in volumes by the beautiful driving scenes that just happen and drift us through the film, gliding through the city with purpose in grand style of youth and living on the edge. A film that is rare these days, Gosling is lucky for now to work in mainly independent films that are benefiting his career, a turn at Batman in the next few years may change all that, unless he keeps his eyes open to the fresh scripts that can go unnoticed and forgotten. Thank god for Gosling.
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