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Review: Drive

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Ever seen a car about to crash? You know it's going to happen, you're on the edge of your seat waiting for the crunch of impact until the inevitable conclusion. You may not necessarily want to watch, but you can not look away. That daunting feeling may come to mind while watching director Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, which is coming out on DVD this January 31st. It's a thrill ride from beginning to end with some incredible performances.

Based on the book by James Salles; the story follows a nameless Hollywood stunt car driver (Ryan Gosling),who moonlights as a getaway driver for an assortment of thieves. He is thrown from his malaise when he becomes involved with his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her newly free from prison husband, Standard (Oscar Issac). When Standard runs afoul of some particularly ruthless gangsters (an organization headed by Albert Brooks) is when the driver is forced to become involved in order to protect Irene. It is all at once a seemingly simple plot that is complicated by complex characters and dynamics.

Heading up this remarkable ensemble is Gosling, and with great aplomb. He is a real chameleon as an actor, starkly shifting his mannerisms and speech patterns with each role. That is certainly on display with the manic driver, who at times speak so slowly it may take audiences a moment to realize that he actually is engaged with what is occuring around him and then instantly a subterfuge of raw energy. It is clear why Gosling may have largely looked over this awards season for the role; he has done an equally good job with other characters, but with those that are a bit easier to discern their wants/needs. This may also be why such praise has been lauded to Brooks as the other primary leading role of the film. For those used to a sweet and sarcastic comedian, you are in for a rude awakening. Brooks' Bernard Rose is a man with a decidedly cold and calculating stance. The audience knows exactly what is going to happen and why, and are left simply watching the sheer enjoyment this man gets out of torturing others for his own means. It's a standout performance that has found Brooks deservedly recognized by a number of organizations, including the Film Critics Societies of New York, Boston, Chicago, Florida, and the National Association. He was also nominated at the Golden Globes, and rather shockingly not by the Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Refn's first studio film has a nice polished quality that makes it enjoyable for general audiences and film-geeks alike. He is clearly an autuer with a distinctive break-neck style, but luckily knows when to let the camera live with the characters in a room when necessary. Some may argue that the film's pace does seem to plod at times when not racing through, but it fits the manic tone of the rest of the film/characters.

This is a great movie for fans of thrillers, Gosling, and anyone who wants to have a movie-night without any children. Seriously take heed to the R-rating due to some particularly startling images that I do not wish to spoil here.

Grade: A-

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