Saturday, 24 September 2011

Drive, dir. Nicolas Winding Refn, scr. Hossein Amini, based on Drive by James Sallis, st. Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman

One would have thought that by now lone wolves recognise pretty girls and cute kids as the two biggest threats to their finely tuned status quo, and unfortunately for Driver, he's about to encounter both. Yes, Driver, for that is his name, and a clear signal we're in Man With No Name territory. Refn's film can be read as a taut, muscular thriller, although it reminded me more of a romantic Crash than anything else, not so much sex and wrecks as asphalt and affection; here, the automobiles play a highly symbolic role. Irene's car trouble is the catalyst that brings our pair together, while Driver revs, rolls and handbrakes with indifference, the car as an expendable commodity, the currency of his solitary existence rather than a materialistic luxury or a womb-like cocoon with which we might transport our young. When the couple do finally hold hands, it's over the stick-shift, and to Cliff Martinez's marvellously unctuous synth pads as they drive alongside a setting sun. The violence, when it comes, is sudden and brutal and a little jarring considering Driver's reluctance to even carry a gun, but one wonders whether this is the price one pays for a life of emotional disconnection. No one does shy 'n' awkward like Gosling, and the slow-burn of his relationship with a quietly assured Mulligan is wonderful to watch. What with its hot-pink handwritten credit sequence and judicious use of 80s-vibed sound, it's clear Refn is going for a specific type of stylistic retro pulp, but it's also one of the boldest and most heartfelt love stories you're likely to see this year.