A Hollywood stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) also works as a mechanic at the car shop of his boss, Shannon (Bryan Cranston), and as a driver for criminals during the nighttime hours. He gets caught up with a local mobster, Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks), who hires him to drive his race car. Meanwhile, a romance between him and his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), blossoms. Irene has a husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), whoís about to be released from prison, and a young son, Benicio (Kaden Leos). Upon Standardís release from prison, the stunt driver gets into deep trouble as he tries to protect himself as well as Standard from criminals.
For a film that combines many different genres, namely, drama, thriller, action, mystery and romance, Drive succeeds that delicate rather well thanks to the sensitively-written screenplay by Hossein Amini ans the stylish, assured direction by Nicolas Winding Refn. If youíre familiar with Refnís previous films, Bronson and Valhalla Rising, you should already know by now that he has a knack for including bold, stylish visuals as a means of creating atmosphere. The most captivating scenes of Drive are the ones where the characters remain silent thereby allowing you to interpret what they think and feel through their facial expressions. Ryan Gosling, a very talented actor, does a great job of conveying a lot of hidden emotion throughout those silent scenes. Youíve never seen Albert Brooks in such a mean-spirited role as a gangster before.
Given that Refn relies on nuances, character development and atmosphere, his film feels somewhat European in its sensibilities while paying homage to the B-movies of the 1980ís. The opening sequence, with its well-chosen soundtrack and cinematography, is worth the price of admission alone. There are also a few very graphically violence scenes that might shock you on a visceral level, but those moments are far and few between. Fortunately, Refn doesnít resort to using shaky camera movements as a means of creating tension nor does he bombard the film with action sequences; the tension builds gradually as you learn more and more about the stunt driver and observe the evolving dynamics between him and the other characters. There are a few twists and turns that transpire along the way, but they wonít be spoiled here.
At a running time of 1 hour and 40 minutes, Drive manages to be atmospheric, refreshingly intelligent and suspenseful with a well-nuanced performance by Ryan Gosling. Itís one of the most invigorating thrillers of the year because it offers both style and substance.