Actor Appreciation Week 1 Review: Drive (2011)

This is regarded by many as the peak of Gosling’s career thus far. Here is a Steve McQueen-esque leading man which he pulls off expertly. Despite the violence, Drive is a love story at heart. In some ways a love story between an actor and director and the European movies of old. In other ways it is a different kind of love story between a man and the experience of driving. However, perhaps surprisingly, this is mainly a conventional love story between a man and a woman. Whilst the title may be Drive, the cars take a back seat so to the speak, with the relationship at the heart of the film pushing the narrative along until its final moments. Gosling’s mysterious protagonist who is referred to as the Driver, works as a stuntman part-time as well as at a garage. He also moonlights as a getaway driver. He meets the charming Irene (Carey Mulligan) and they immediately have an unspoken connection. When her husband returns home from prison, and has debts to pay, the Driver is dragged into a brutal underworld of backstabbing and violence.

Despite the charming leading man good lucks though, Gosling’s Driver carries a dangerous aura and is a master of the piercing gaze. However, he clearly has a soft side when it comes to his neighbour. He is incredibly natural with both Irene and her young son, and watching their friendship grow is genuinely wonderful. The cute half smiles Gosling and Mulligan share light up the screen.

This will understandably go down as both one of Gosling’s and director Nicholas Winding Refn’s best works. There is the setting, the seedy underbelly of LA at night mixed with a very European style creating a wonderful atmosphere that is only augmented by the synthpop music choices. It oozes cool with Gosling even pulling off a cream scorpion-imprinted jacket, which will no doubt be imitated but never duplicated by adoring fans. The amount of iconic scenes in this movie is quite remarkable really. From the white-knuckle ride of the opening getaway to the blood-soaked motel room brawl, it demands to be remembered. Perhaps most famous is the unforgettable, completely heartbreaking elevator sequence, with its juxtaposed shots of a kiss and brutal crazed stomps. That one moment epitomises this movie above all else: touching emotion and vicious violence, framed in an ultra-stylistic atmosphere.

P.S. Any Breaking Ban fanatic will no doubt squeal with delight as Bryan Cranston’s Shannon mentions how the Driver has likely ran away to Belize already.

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