Sunday 13 May 2012

Drive (2011) - Nicolas Winding Refn

Drive is easily the most stylish film of the year.  But is it a case of style over substance?

Ryan Gosling plays a man known only as 'Driver', who works by day as a Hollywood stunt driver and by night as a getaway driver.  When he offers his services to assist his next door neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), he gets embroiled in a criminal plot that leads him down a dark, extremely violent struggle for survival.  Based on the 2005 novel by James Sallis, the narrative focuses solely on Driver and therefore lacks some depth to the backstory, though this does uphold the mysterious character of the protagonist.

Daytime Los Angeles is bathed in soft golden hues; at night the metropolis becomes a foreboding neo-noir world of neon lights and menacing shadows.  The camera pace is slow and lingering, giving the shots time to breathe, stylish cool oozing out of every frame.  Dialogue is minimal, allowing the evocative synth soundtrack to fill the airwaves.  The 80s retro feel may seem an odd choice for a film set in present day, but the slick sounds compliment the aesthetics.

Gosling's Driver is calm and collected.  One moment he exudes silent cool, displaying a surprisingly warm heart towards his neighbour's son; the next, he flips to quiet, threatening intimidation.  Like the film, he moves with slow purpose and is economical with his words.

Drive is a film to be experienced, not watched.  The story may conform to crime clich├ęs and will remind many viewers of Grand Theft Auto, but the film's style is just...utterly cool.