After months of looking forward to seeing Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive (which we previously mentioned during our Cannes Film Fest wrap-up), we caught it opening day and were absolutely delighted with it.
-Lead actor Ryan Gosling and Refn, during the shoot, removed most of Gosling's dialogue, but he still makes an uncanny impression in each and every one of his scenes.
-Gosling, it seems, was allowed to pick his director for this film, and to his credit Refn was his first and only choice. The result is the best of all possibles when a foreign filmmaker makes his Hollywood debut: Refn is clearly working with some of the greatest craftspeople of his career, and given a great deal of free reign with the style and subject matter. If the result is perhaps less action packed than other crime films out presently, it makes the movies rare scenes of violence stand out more shockingly. And allows Refn to capture hundreds of quiet, crystalline moments and lovely character details throughout this minimalistic story.
-Word has it that Albert Brooks is likely headed for an Oscar nomination for his work here. This is completely deserved.
-And yet Bryan Cranston is just as good in his own role as the broken down mechanic who builds Gosling's vehicles. There's no sign whatsoever of Walter White, Cranston's signature role, and Cranston endows Shannon with a subtly realized broken-down grace.
-But the whole ensemble's very, very strong, with Carey Mulligan bringing weariness and quiet strength to what could have been an otherwise thankless role, and Ron Perlman finding a pleasing softness beneath his very rough-hewn physiognomy.
-As appropriate to a car-based crime film, this thing just moves. There's a strong 80s feel to the film, from the pink cursive typography of the credits through the old school electro on the soundtrack to Gosling's American Gigolo-ish isolation. Yet somehow it betrays all these influences without feeling self-consciously retro in the slightest.
-Outside the songs on the soundtrack, the action is propelled by a lovely, minimalist, and brittle electronic score by Cliff Martinez that speaks to the volumes of danger and menace lurking beneath the surfaces of this gorgeous film.
-We're damned if we can figure out how it was inspired by the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky.
-Still, it's one of our favorite Hollywood films of the year.
-And, quite possibly, Refn's best.