Not only did I see a new movie, I actually loved it. Drive made me happy in a way no movie's done since Pale Flower, which goes to show I really love films noir I guess.
I'd been hearing for a while now what a good actor this Ryan Gosling is, but despite the fact that he's been in a billion or so films, this is the first time I've seen him. But this movie's enough to convince me he's not overrated. His character, the unnamed driver, is, to put it lightly, the quiet type. He does talk, but he often seems content to let spaces fill with silence and the subtlety of Gosling's performance makes scenes of him silently regarding someone absolutely absorbing. And his performance fits perfectly with the tone of the film, which is beautifully cool, like old school Ridley Scott.
The Driver is a stunt driver by day, and at night he takes jobs driving getaway cars for robbers. Of course, he's a preternaturally gifted driver, as we see in the opening scene as he, wordlessly and almost totally expressionlessly, dodges police cars and helicopters.
The story, though, involves the driver's relationship with Irene (Carey Mulligan), his neighbour and a young mother whose husband has just gotten out of prison. Before her husband gets out of prison, though, the Driver and Irene spend a lot of quality silent, not-flirting time together. It's lucky the world arranges things like Irene's car breaking down outside the supermarket where she happened to run into the Driver again, or I can't imagine him ever reaching out to anyone. Instead, he seems to allow people around him to feel what they're going to feel and stares them down, letting the energy just sort of build between them. After Irene puts her kid to bed the first night, she goes to speak to the Driver, who's sitting on the window sill. They exchange a few words--"Thank you," and so on, but mostly they just look at each other as he refrains from responding to her, and all the thoughts and possibilities just kind of transmit between the actors. And it's the same when the Driver's dealing with gangsters--they'll ask him things like, "Where's the money?" and the Driver just looks back at them. He let's them know he doesn't have to say anything, he doesn't even have to say he's not talking, and it underlines what he has over them.
So of course, in the tradition of many a noir, the Driver finds himself in a situation where he needs to protect innocent Irene from the sinister side of Los Angeles he and her husband are caught up in, and the Driver has to work knowing he can never consummate their relationship and knowing that if she found out what kind of guy he really is she'd be horrified.
There are fantastic supporting performances. Christina Hendricks shows up all too briefly as a small time robber, and the two big bosses in the local mob are played by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman. Perlman's Nino runs a pizzeria and has a huge chip on his shoulder about the fact that the east coast mob gives him shit for being Jewish. I'd swear his character's based on Ronnie the Limo Driver.
Brooks' character comes off as the more threatening, the far deadlier, for being more reasonable. It's all business to him. He'll slit a guy's arm open with a hidden straight razor only because he has too, but he won't feel particularly bad about it, either.
More than anything, it's the tone that makes this movie work. The way it's shot, silence filled by the sounds of cars and street lights at night.