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Friday, 1 June 2012

Far Beyond Driven

Jaw-dropping piece of cinema from Nicolas Winding Refn, there isn't a weak link in the chain from the top-billed performances of Gosling and Mulligan down to the knuckle-dragging henchmen, everyone brings their A-game. Refn has a unique voice as his previous work (including Bronson and Fear X) ably demonstrates and this must be his strongest outing to date. Gosling's performance is beautifully empty, the epitome of 'spare' while Mulligan effortlessly illuminates the screen, making it impossible to tear ones eyes off her in much the same way as in 'An Education' (or anything else she's been in).

Carey Mulligan
These two performances alone would make an excellent film, but it is in the 'supporting' roles that 'Drive' is elevated from a good movie to a definitive piece of modern cinema that will stand out for years to come as a beacon of what can be achieved with total belief in a good project. Ron Perlman and Christina Hendricks know how to captivate an audience. Hendricks owns every one of her scenes in the peerless 'Man Men' and Perlman is the godfather of the twisted soul, but thankfully is given the chance to play it straight up here and does so to brutal effect, whereas Hendricks delivers a nicely judged if brief appearance transitioning from bravado to a much truer, baser emotion.

Bryan Cranston
These four performances are to be expected from the individuals in question, but the standouts are those ones that come from left field. Albert Brooks was for so long the straight man in funny movies but who knew he had this in him. His turn as Bernie Rose is every bit as menacing as De Niro at his best/'worst', but Brooks' foil is possibly even more surprising. Bryan Cranston, for so long delivering howlingly funny often slapstick comedy as Malcolm's dad, in 'Malcolm in the Middle', turns in a beautifully nuanced performance as Gosling's mentor Shannon. None of the main characters is entirely good or evil, with the probable exception of Mulligan's 'Irene' and Perlman's 'Nino' and it is perhaps that facet that makes 'Drive' as enthralling as it is.

Albert Brooks
'Drive' could be seen as yet another demonstration that so much that is exciting in modern storytelling is coming from Scandinavia, however I think it is actually a vivid illustration that the best cinema comes from the melting pot, with no barrier preventing directors, actors, writers and all the other creative fields from coming together. It's strong stuff in places, but if you can get past that you are in for one of the most memorable films in the last 20 years.

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