Year of Release: 2011
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Screenplay: Hossein Amini, based on the novel Drive by James Sallis
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks
Running Time: 100 minutes
Genre: crime, thriller
Ryan Gosling stars as the unnamed Driver, a mechanic and part-time movie stunt driver who occasionally moonlights as a getaway driver. Living a quiet, solitary existence, his only friend is his employer / manager Shannon (Cranston). However, the Driver soon finds himself drawn to his neighbor Irene (Mulligan) who lives alone with her son, Benicio (Kaden Leos), her husband, Standard (Isaac), is in jail. However when Standard is released and forced into taking part in a robbery, the Driver has to take extreme measures to protect Irene and Benicio.
Nicolas Winding Refn is a fantastic visual stylist, and here he turns Los Angeles into a seductive, neon-drenched netherworld. Despite being set in the present day, the film has a kind of retro, 1980s feel about it, accentuated by Cliff Matinez's pulsating synth score, but the Driver himself could almost be a Western hero, the Clint Eastwood-style Man With No Name. Certainly, with his silk jacket emblazoned with a scorpion logo on the back, the blank-faced Gosling turns in an iconic performance with very little dialogue, communicating a lot with just a quick look and the twitch of his mouth.
Mostly, this is a slow-moving film, but it is punctuated with sudden bursts of graphic violence (warning: the violence is pretty shocking, especially as it often erupts so suddenly). The storyline is fairly predictable, although this isn't really a plot driven film, it's a mood piece. Also Carey Mulligan really isn't given much to do at all, and the other principal female character, Christina Hendricks' Blanche, has barely any screen-time at all. However, Bryan Cranston is striking as the always unlucky Shannon.
It may be too slow and too brutal for some, but it is a ride worth taking.