Drive (2011, Nicolas Winding Refn)

Drive poster

Well, this was not what I was expecting at all! A film called “Drive” with a central character with a double life as stunt driver and getaway man – this is going to be a brainless adrenaline rush of chase after chase, right? Wrong. This is a properly cinematic thriller; yes, its hero is a bit of a superhero, and there are some good driving sequences but few, and they are more plausible than I expected.

The opening scene didn’t bode too well, with slightly too much “Basil Exposition” for my taste but, as soon as the first chase scene began, I was intrigued. This was a much more interesting chase than I expected. Then some time is spent establishing Driver’s (Gosling’s lead, I don’t think he’s named) relationship with Irene (Carey Mulligan, good in everything I’ve seen her in, including Dr Who) and her son, Benicio. There is some chemistry and it is delicate and sweet.

When Irene’s husband, Standard, comes out of jail, it throws a spanner in the works of Irene and Driver’s possible relationship but, again, there is a bit more going on. As Driver agrees to help Standard pay his debts, for Irene and Benicio’s sake and with the assistance of another crook, Blanche (Christina Hendricks, surprisingly unglam), the situation rapidly becomes more serious. Some of the film style is almost Lynchian in style, dark and menacing, and there are occasional bursts of extreme violence. Despite my initial fears, there are no “A-Team cars rolling over, things explode, nobody hurt” and the “18” certificate is not surprising.

There are twists, not labyrinthine, and there are characters, though not especially deep but, most of all, there is craft on display here. It’s not perfect but it is, much to my surprise, among the best films I’ve seen this year.

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