I absolutely loathe the fact that I wasn't ahead of the curve on DRIVE. I've been excited about it since the moment it was announced. Refn's last film, BRONSON played like a revelation when I saw it - and Refn's PUSHER trilogy is not to be missed. The worst thing about going to Toronto for the premiere of my first film as producer was missing the press screening for DRIVE.
When I came back to Austin, I was in prep mode for FANTASTIC FEST and never did have an afternoon or late evening open till just a day or two ago when I finally sat down to catch DRIVE. Now this is a fucking movie.
Remember vintage Michael Mann? You know films like THE THIEF or FRENCH CONNECTION... where the vibe of a scene isn't necessarily REAL - but cool as fuck? Refn demonstrates a masterful control over how to bring a vibe to life. DRIVE is a film about a Hollywood stunt car driver played by Ryan Gosling - he's absolutely eerie perfect. We don't know anything about where he comes from, his back story. All we know is what we see. He's a Hollywood Stuntdriver and Getaway Car Driver... and he wears a badass jacket with a scorpion logo that feels old and worn... a jacket he wears like it has a story.
Refn does an amazing thing with a film that leaves a lot to its audience. He trusts in the actors and their ability to absolutely captivate. Which is easy when you have actors like Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks and Bryan Cranston commanding the screen.
Let's take for example the unrequited love story at the center of the film... Refn has Ryan Gosling as a nameless driver... we meet him and we see that he's a consummate smart professional part-time bad guy, but we also see that he's an incredible driver professionally for Hollywood. And he meets this awesome seemingly single girl named Irene, played by the exquisitely talented Carey Mulligan. He finds out that the father of the child is in prison... so he proceeds with pursuing her. There's definitely chemistry there. When Irene's husband gets out of prison seemingly overnight... Our mysterious Driver becomes her confidant and a family friend. You get the idea that Gosling not only loves her, but truly wants what's best for her. So he doesn't get all adversarial with her husband, he tries to help him out of a rather shady shakedown - the classic, 1 last job, scenario. I love that Irene is not in on what is going on. That she's allowed to be innocent. I love when that innocence gets lost. It is a scene of such raw power and magnificence that it pretty much beats every other single scene I've seen in any film this year. It's "The Elevator scene" and holy shit dude. Holy shit.
Ryan Gosling has been the next big thing for a bit now. This will be his breakout role. Now, I know... I know... it's only made like $30 million at the Box Office and sure that's double its budget, and if this were a grotesque mega-super-Hollywood budget film, that would mean it would have made $400 million in its first 3 weeks... But this is a smaller film. A film filled with emotion and style and thought and power and sensuality and soul and explosions of violence and utterly fucked situations that it hurts and scars because you CARE ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THESE GREAT CHARACTERS THAT YOU LOVE!
I mean. It just works. Why does it work? What makes it so fucking great? It's the writing, the acting, the directing... music by Cliff Martinez that just sizzles... this is the score of the year so far. And the songs just fucking rock. Newton Thomas Sigel's photography is so cool. So cool. This movie looks so cool. Then there's just the way everything looks in the film - the sets and costumes and the look of the film - created by Beth Mickle, Christopher Tandon and Lisa Sessions and Erin Benach. Their work is just note perfect. So perfect.
But the most obvious wow from this film are the performances and characters. Ron Perlman... this is one of those performances in a small film by him, that goes right alongside CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, CRONOS, NAME OF THE ROSE and THE LAST SUPPER - as his very best work. He's not the biggest part, but his presence drives a lot of the film. Because he is who he is in this universe, the movie becomes the movie it becomes. Then you have Albert Brooks... and goddamn him, when Albert Brooks shows up to show up, he's fucking awesome! Wow. He's just as great as he gets here. Carey Mulligan - she's as great as she is in NEVER LET ME GO or AN EDUCATION. Can't wait to see her Daisy Buchanan! Bryan Cranston reminds me of Adam Roarke's Deke Sommers from DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY or Ben Johnson's Buck Roan in JUNIOR BONNER. He's the wounded soul of the movie. Love him.
I'm so glad I saved writing this for after I finally got to write about that fucking THING prequel. This is a movie that gives you faith in the artform. It's so satisfying at every level - and it makes me happy as hell to just get to see a movie like this in a theater. This film has a racing pulse... it reminds you of the great gritty noirs and it follows those rules. Had the film been shot in the fifties, it would've starred a young Burt Lancaster. Those films were always B movies that didn't break the Box Office in half. But they're the movies we write about 50 & 60 years later as driving up our pulse and loving the very emulsion of cinema itself.
DRIVE is that kind of movie! A film that you get drunk in love with and lock yourself up with for a week of constant indulgence once it comes out. It's a movie that makes you want to live. I love those films.