I picked up the blu-ray of Drive over the weekend and thought it was an absolutely brilliant film. A simple premise; Ryan Gosling is a Hollywood stunt driver by day moonlighting as a getaway driver for hire at night, inevitably getting mixed up in the wrong job. It’s set in the present day, but from the moment the neon pink opening titles hit the screen there’s a heavy and unique 1980’s atmosphere in it’s soundtrack, clothing, lighting and locations (think art deco apartment blocks with indirect wall lighting). It gives it a subtle guilty pleasure feel, but not spoofing the 80’s like a grindhouse feature. It’s better described a “neo-noir art house feature”. It has a terrific supporting cast too; Carey Mulligan plays the female lead who steals the Driver’s heart and Albert Brooks plays a surprisingly menacing mob boss. Bryan Cranston, who’s wildly underrated, turns in a great performance too as Shannon.
Nicolas Winding Refn oozes every ounce of tension possible out of the screen time, such as the lingering on shots after the dialogue ends. The Driver is a man of few words, but when he does speak you know for a fact that he means every syllable. This film could have easily become the star-vehicle Drive Angry; going for the explosions and gore (not that there’s a lack of the latter however!) but the focus on characters and plot really pay off in a more satisfying way. Sure, there’s a place for the Saturday night features, but nothing can replace a genuinely engaging story with characters you care about.
Coupled with a horse-powered car chase (the roar of the Ford Mustang will give any car fan goose pimples) and great characters, I’d highly recommend a viewing. I’ve heard of some ludicrous lawsuits being filed against Drive’s producers from dissatisfied viewers expecting The Fast and Furious, but the movie scores a solid 4/5 with me. Then again, there’d be no harm in adding another car chase!
From the various reviews on the first film it had both it’s fans and it’s haters. The sequel is bigger and bolder but unlikely to claim back those haters to the franchise, even with Holmes’ arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty, in the other corner. Moriarty is indeed portrayed as Holmes’ equal in terms of intellect, and there are times when you think it’s game over for our super sleuth. He’s certainly seen as meeting his match, just as the Dark Knight does with the Joker.
Four films in and you’d expect the pace to slow down a little, but this is Tom Cruise we’re talking about here. He’s nearly at the half-century milestone and is still willing to throw himself out of the tallest building in the world (and even recently climbing to the building’s peak, unharnessed!). The plot of the films hasn’t required extensive discussions over a few drinks after the cinema, they’re more of a catalyst for the big action set pieces. Ghost Protocol continues this tradition and pulls out of the hat some of the best set pieces in the series to date. For example, [minor spoiler] the recently disavowed IMF team suddenly need to hack into the mainframe of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Going through the front door isn’t possible, so instead it must be accessed from the outside. Cue vertigo-inducing acrobatics.
Brad Bird’s first live action feature really hits all the right notes, and the use of IMAX cameras for key scenes does a fantastic job at promoting this format. He could have easily used a CGI solution for the Burj Khalfia scene (given that he’s from an animation background, previously with Pixar’s The Incredibles). The rest of the action is very fluid, almost as if it drives the story itself. Every movement seems to have purpose.
It has its cheesy moments and a weak villain, but for the fourth film in a franchise it’s a solid entry. It proves they just don’t want make a quick buck at the box office, but push the limits of an action film to new limits.
After reading Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy I was initially compelled to watch the original Swedish films instead of David Fincher’s. Then the trailer landed. Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross’ score added another dimension to the eerie and disturbing atmosphere, so I decided to wait for the Hollywood version. A calculated risk, as I’ve heard nothing but praise of Noomi Rapace’s performance, but worth the wait. However, Rooney Mara really puts in a stellar performance as Lisbeth Salander, both physically and verbally.