This movie shoots straight out of the gate into the story about a nameless stunt driver (played stoically by Ryan Gosling), who moonlights as a getaway driver. In superb “show, don’t tell” fashion, we see (Nameless) Driver give brief instructions to his “clients” by burner phone, then engage in a heist that goes a bit sideways. But he walks away clean.
Well, sorta. It’s a minor problem that comes back to haunt him later, but is quickly resolved because Driver is such a bad ass. Or at least seems to be. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
And that’s just the first ten minutes of film. It’s not even the hard part.
Driver, who comes off as quite the existential loner, softens a bit when he meets cute neighbor, Irene (played by Carey Mulligan) and her adorable son, Benicio. Driver even grows fond of her and the kid, and there’s a smoldering sexual subtext that never quite rises to consummation.
Such a shame Irene is married to a convict who eventually comes home from the joint. Said convict, Standard (yes, that’s his name) (and he’s played by Oscar Isaac) also unfortunately owes money to a gangster, who demands he rob a pawnshop to pay off his debt. Naturally, being soft on Irene, Driver offers his services as wheelman.
Now, this is when things go south. Unfortunately.
I’ll say no more about the plot, because that would be telling. I will say that the acting in this movie is superb. Driver is not unlike the neo-noir version of the nameless stranger in Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns. He reflects both the freedom of an existential loner, as well as the price he pays for his failure or inability to form lasting connections with others. Gosling plays the role so restrained that when he does lash out, the contrast is striking.
Bryan Cranston is awesome as the auto shop owner who Driver works for as a mechanic (and who also provides the vehicles for Driver’s exploits). Ron Perlman plays a guy named Nino, who acts like a guy named Nino would. And Albert Brooks is his Jewish partner, who acts like I’ve never seen Albert Brooks act. Ever.
This movie was based on the James Sallis novel of the same name. Screenwriter Hossein Amini did a bang-up job of adapting a novel with a nonlinear narrative into the story you see on the screen. Be advised the movie is not for the faint of heart in the violence department. But that violence is not gratuitous, but deftly underscores the precarious nature of Driver’s existence.
Featuring heart-gripping chase scenes and haunting neo-noir cinematography, Drive manages to be both incredibly violent and incredibly moving. No pun intended! It also has an unforgettable ending.
An amazing film and a must-see for all neo-noir enthusiasts! Just be advised. There will be blood!