Gosling’s character is a Hollywood stunt driver by day and a get away driver for criminals by night. He takes a shine to his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), and offers to help her just-released-from-prison husband (Oscar Isaacs) with a heist. But the heist goes wrong and the chase begins. Well, this chase begins. Gosling’s character is chasing something from the start. He’s not quite sure what. Maybe it’s Irene. Maybe it’s something else. But Gosling’s eyes never stop searching.
And it’s a good thing that the talented actor’s face is so expressive. There is scant dialogue so words don’t have much of a role. (Though, when characters do speak, they speak with precision and intensity.) There’s a moment in the film when Gosling has just brutally beaten someone, while in the presence of Irene. (I swear this is not torture porn.) He looks up at her and has this diabolically layered look on his face: part “I’m deranged;” part “I didn’t know I could do that;” and part “Please forgive me. I need help. I need you.”
There’s almost too much story here to call it an action film. Populated with great actors (Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston join Gosling and Mulligan), Drive is a pulsing, Grimm fairy tale in which the white knight must protect the pure princess. (Neither Gosling’s character nor Irene have such delusions of grandeur; still, I think it’s an apt allusion.)
One of the elements I really liked was the sound. Every time Gosling clinched and opened his gloved fists as he readied to drive, the sound came crackling through. (In an interview with Time Out New York, director Refn said, “Every time Ryan moved his hands, I always amplified it much louder in postproduction…”) The motor revved up and it throbbed through the movie theater. In a film with very little dialogue, I liked how the sound made up for a lack of chatter.
Both Refn and Gosling have said of this movie that it’s a John Hughes movie but with violence. I can’t say that I would have picked up on the Hughes-ness in Drive if it hadn’t been suggested, but since they mentioned it, I can see it. This film, with its sudden but purposeful head bashings, is not for the squeamish, but film buffs and anyone looking for a satisfying, un-Hollywood movie should definitely race to see Drive.