Gosling plays the silent anti-hero with ease, and his palpable chemistry with Mulligan lights up the first act of the film. The film’s supporting cast provides a crisp contrast with our hero: where The Driver is cool and detached, the additional characters are hot and rich with detail. Shannon (Brian Cranston), a small-time crook and mechanic, gets The Driver mixed up with a pair of mafia thugs: Nino (Ron Perlman) and his eerily affable partner, Bernie (Albert Brooks).
Much like director Nicolas Winding Refn’s previous work, Drive is highly stylized. The modern noir is set in the real Los Angeles, peppered with scenes in a grungy Chinese restaurant and cruising through the back alleys downtown. Refn’s shots showcase Mulligan’s profile swathed in light and shadow -- the purse of her lips as she and Gosling exchange subtle smiles. Drive builds tension slowly amidst a dreamy euro-pop soundtrack. It shifts into high gear so suddenly that the quiet, sun-kissed beginning is nearly forgotten in the brutal climax.
Refn has described his latest work as a fairy tale, and somehow this violent, muscle car movie is magical. Drive is an artful concoction of rhythm, performance, and haunting beauty. The performances alone make this film stand out, but with the gorgeous shots, the perfectly paced script and the unexpected shifts in tone, this film is truly one worth experiencing.
FOR FANS OF: Point Blank, Pulp Fiction, To Live and Die in L.A.