Modern film-noir grips from start to finish

DRIVE – With Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac and Albert Brooks. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.

Ryan Gosling plays an enigmatic character making a living as a stunt driver in Hollywood. He also puts his skills to darker use by occasionally working with criminals as a getaway driver on heists, robberies and other illegal activities. When he befriends his attractive neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son, he is soon drawn into a spiral of violence that threatens to strip away his new-found happiness and draw out the inhumanity that lurks beneath his placid exterior.

The aesthetics and direction of Drive are its most compelling aspects. We are treated to dramatic shots of night-time Los Angeles, set to a pulsing and soulful electro soundtrack. The pace of the film is slow and meditative and does a great job of establishing the rhythm of the driver’s life. The leisurely pace makes the shocking eruptions of gruesome violence towards the climax all the more effective.

Drive further succeeds in making the car chase, that old Hollywood-standby, interesting again. The script shows an understanding of the importance of making the audience care about the characters before throwing them into action scenes. Our investment in the lives and well-being of these characters makes for thrilling action set-pieces.

Drive successfully updates the film-noir genre for modern audiences. The film’s violence and slow pace might be off-putting to some, but fans of well-made, contemplative cinema will find it an enjoyable ride.

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