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Kate Bove

Why Are Films About the Multiverse Hollywood’s Hottest Trend Right Now?

drive hollywood movie review

If you’ve ever taken a film history class — or attended a liberal arts college with a robust film program and plenty of cinephile mansplainers — you might’ve looked more deeply at genre films, and the ways in which certain narratives come in waves. Often, particular genres or themes have A Moment™, either sparking a trend or, at the very least, tapping into a kind of collective need the audience has to see a particular something reflected on screen — and in art as a whole. 

So, in a world where we literally say things like “we’re living in the darkest timeline,” it’s no surprise that films about the multiverse are hot in Hollywood right now.

The Connection Between Genre & the Zeitgeist 

When I think about the ways a film can reflect the zeitgeist, director George A. Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead (1968) comes to mind. While not the first zombie film to grace the silver screen, Romero’s hit certainly popularized the beings. (Well, even though he never refers to them as “zombies” in the movie.) Night of the Living Dead took horror to new places; instead of monsters in masks and makeup, Romero’s film brought terror to ordinary places and ushered in the “splatter film” subgenre. 

But part of Night of the Living Dead ’s resonance stems from what it was responding to, whether intentionally or not. There’s, of course, the carnage — a reflection of the unpopular war in Vietnam. The monsters in the film aren’t vampires, aliens or demons — they’re us . 

drive hollywood movie review

In science-fiction and horror movies, filmmakers can use the innate reality-bending nature of the genres to explore a very human feeling, fear or truth. While the machinations surrounding the film’s meaning — people reanimating into flesh-hungry hordes, for example — are fantasy, this unreal element actually allows creators to interrogate something that’s otherwise hard to pin down. Maybe something a grounded, based-in-reality film just couldn’t get at in the same way. 

In recent years, we’ve seen genre trends in film and television that reflect larger cultural anxieties or questions. Take the superhero movie, for example. Thanks to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), superhero movies have dominated theaters for over a decade. Writing for Vox , Emily St. James argues that superhero films are a response to 9/11, noting that “It’s tragedy reimagined as cartoon — a version two steps removed that lets us glance at the real wound in our peripheral vision.” 

drive hollywood movie review

So many of those early Marvel movies center on ordinary folks who’re given extraordinary opportunities; they find the inner strength to overcome and, later, avenge. There’s tons of destruction, but it’s rare when someone dies — it’s rare when a hero can’t save the day. With the first Avengers (2012) film, the parallel is made all the more evident; at its center is Captain America (Chris Evans), defending New York City from skyscraper-toppling, airborne leviathans. 

Even before the MCU debuted, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) saw the titular web-slinger (Tobey Maguire) saving Manhattan, and being saved by the collective efforts of New Yorkers. Whether you feel Marvel’s tapping into our collective grief to be compelling, cathartic or exploitative, there’s no denying that it was a reflection of society’s desire to rewrite a traumatic moment and recast ourselves as day-saving heroes.

So, How Are Multiverse Films Reflecting Our Present Moment? 

Adapted into a movie a decade ago, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas , while not exactly a multiverse story, did tap into a particular kind of “what if.” In Cloud Atlas , characters’ souls “cross ages like clouds cross skies,” taking different shapes in different times, but remaining “them” in some capacity. Told from multiple points of view, the novel, and all of its “everything everywhere,” is given structure thanks to the flow of time. Without it, one of Mitchell’s characters posits, every moment would happen at once. Co-directed by the Wachowskis ( The Matrix ) and Tom Tykwer ( Run Lola Run ), it’s no surprise that Cloud Atlas was ahead of the trend. 

While 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse brought us face to face with a fun version of the multiverse, the concept is having an even bigger moment now. In 2021, the MCU churned out Loki , What If…? , and Spider-Man: No Way Home , all of which touched on the multiverse — or the idea of other concurrent timelines — in some capacity. 

drive hollywood movie review

Andy Samberg’s sci-fi rom-com Palm Springs (2020) touched upon a related genre convention: the endless time loop. Céline Sciamma’s Petite Maman (2021) blurs the lines between past and present. Alex Garland’s 2020 sci-fi thriller series, Devs , dove into the many-worlds interpretation ; that is, all possible outcomes of quantum measurements are realized in some world or universe.

In 2022, arguably the biggest movie to hit screens has been Everything Everywhere All at Once . Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively referred to as “the Daniels” ( Swiss Army Man ), and starring Hollywood and Hong Kong cinema legend Michelle Yeoh ( Crazy Rich Asians ; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ), the film centers on Evelyn Wang (Yeoh), a Chinese American woman who’s just trying to run a laundromat, keep her family in line and get through an audit. 

Soon enough, Evelyn finds herself swept up in some multiverse madness. There’s quite a bit going on in the movie, to say the least, and the feeling of “you never know where it’s going next” is part of the thrill. It’s a bold, fearless take on the “chosen one” template; an omnipresent being is destroying worlds, and, hopefully, this version of Evelyn can stop it. She borrows abilities from other selves — all living lives she could’ve had if she’d made different choices, or one little detail had been different. As one character tells Evelyn, “Every rejection, every disappointment, has led you here — to this moment.” 

drive hollywood movie review

With Marvel’s Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hitting screens this week, it’s clear that the trend is more than mere coincidence. And it’s not just a cinematic trend either; currently, several bestsellers, including Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility , touch on “what if” and multiverse tropes. (Maybe this isn’t shocking coming from the author of Station Eleven — she clearly has a knack for predicting the zeitgeist .) 

Why are alternate timelines and the very possibility of the multiverse speaking to us so strongly right now? Really, time in general is messy when it comes to the stories we’re most invested in at the moment. Not to mention, it feels messy in general. How long ago was 2019? Sometimes it takes a minute to adjust, to remember. In a world where a pandemic caught us off guard and reshaped our day-to-day lives — and, in some cases, the trajectory we envisioned for the coming years — there’s something about the “what if?” of it all. 

Not just, “what if this never happened?” but “what if there’s a version of us that isn’t dealing with the pandemic and its many fallouts?” Like I said before, we’ve grown accustomed to making jokes about this being “the darkest timeline,” given not just COVID-19, but the wars, political gridlocks, hateful extremism and looming climate crisis. And that’s just to name a few of the terrors. 

“Every rejection, every disappointment, has led you here — to this moment.” Everything Everywhere all at once

The escapist fantasy of having the power to change our reality is more tempting than other narratives. Instead of imagining we have the superpowers needed to thwart a big bad or evil made manifest, we’ve reached a point where we want to exercise our ability to choose. If we’d known what would unfold in 2020, and the years following, would we have done something different? In a larger sense, would we choose a different now with a kind of omnipresent/multiverse hindsight? 

“What wouldn’t I give now for a never-changing map of the ever-constant ineffable,” Mitchell writes in his novel. “To possess, as it were, an atlas of clouds.” While it’s hard to imagine exactly what we’d choose to do differently, if anything, it’s nice to dream, or live vicariously through a multiverse movie. As Everything Everywhere All at Once illustrates, the ability to choose something else , or elsewhere , can feel liberating — if only for a moment. 


drive hollywood movie review

Drive (I) (2011)

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ryan gosling in drive

Drive – review

N icolas Winding Refn's Drive is an LA pulp thriller, very brutal, very slick. It arrives here on an eddy of editorial hype; there is hardly a male pundit or columnist in Britain under 70 who hasn't declared a simpering man-crush on its star, Ryan Gosling , playing the permafrost-cool hero with no name. He's a Hollywood stunt driver with a toothpick in the corner of his mouth, wearing a sleek bomber jacket with a scorpion on the back. Secretly, he also works for scary criminals as a wheelman, a getaway specialist; he gets top dollar, because he's the very best. With no fear, he can drive at terrifying speeds with extraordinary manoeuvrability; he has a sixth sense for cop cars and police helicopters. However, he has one super-special rule that the robbers must agree to, but which makes zero narrative sense. More of that in a moment.

Drive is a good film with great visual flair, in the style of Elmore Leonard or Quentin Tarantino, and with a little of their natural gruesome gaiety and gallows humour. Gosling has charisma and presence, although his facial expression is often set to "sardonic". Yet I can't quite join in the widespread critical enthusiasm that has greeted this film, and on the two times I've seen it, I couldn't join in the nervous shrieks of audience laughter that its ultra-violence provokes.

The idea is that Gosling's impassive driver gets his Hollywood stunt gigs and maybe also his criminal engagements through a garage owner, a cheerful crook called Shannon (Bryan Cranston) with mob connections. Gosling's life looks as if it will be turned around when he falls quietly in love with his next-door neighbour Irene, played with dignity and tenderness by Carey Mulligan . She's a single mom with a little boy who likes Gosling: her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) is an incompetent crook now in jail, and it is evidently Gosling's tough, unspoken decency that keeps this relationship platonic. He is, moreover, joining a legit business, a speed-racing show Shannon is setting up with his mobster buddies Bernie and Nino – terrific performances from Albert Brooks (a rare bad-guy part) and Ron Perlman. But then Irene's man gets out of the joint, still mixed up in rough stuff, and just for Irene's sake, Gosling does one last driving job on his behalf, which of course goes horribly wrong.

Here is where is this tense, taut drama takes a lurching left-turn into ultra-violence and chaos. Gosling's driver had until this moment seemed like a basically sympathetic, romantic guy – involved in crime of course, but who made a point of not carrying a gun. Now the catastrophe of this last job seems to unlock a psychopathic capacity for extreme brutality. Is this a facet of his personality? Or just a style accessory for the film in general? So many people in this film seem to have the same capacity, and often the violence rips holes in the plot, as well as the bodies. At one stage, somebody kills someone else while chillingly cooing reassurance, yet what he's after is more or less under his is nose, and it doesn't occur to him to look for it. At another stage, someone gets horrifyingly stomped to death in an incautious location, with the body airily undisposed of. A bit of a rash killing in this era of CSI and CCTV and door-to-door inquiries.

Then there is Gosling's rule, supposedly a mark of his hyper-strict professionalism. He will drive the robbers as brilliantly as they could ever wish. But only for five minutes. When the five minutes is up, no matter where they are, he parks and leaves them there. What on earth is the point of a jobsworth getaway driver who downs tools after five minutes? A getaway guy surely has to get the robbers to their pre-arranged safe house, no matter what. What do this movie's creators imagine a robbery involves? It's like having a cab driver who says he'll drive you really really fast in the direction of your house, but only for five minutes. The naivety and absurdity sit uncomfortably with all that super-cool violence.

That said, there are some great cameos with very nice Leonardesque lines. Christina Hendricks almost steals the picture as a mysterious woman called Blanche – suitably white-faced with terror at the awful fate she correctly suspects awaits her when the heist goes wrong. Hendricks brilliantly transmits pure, elemental fear. Brooks and Perlman have some crackling dialogue, especially Perlman who complains that east coast gangster bullies still pinch his cheeks as if he's a kid. "I'm 59 years old!" A world of humiliation and despair is cleverly contained in that. Drive is a movie with power but is still directionless; the acceleration is great, but the steering needs looking at.

  • Ryan Gosling
  • Carey Mulligan
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2011, Crime/Drama, 1h 40m

What to know

Critics Consensus

With its hyper-stylized blend of violence, music, and striking imagery, Drive represents a fully realized vision of arthouse action. Read critic reviews

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Drive   photos.

Driver is a skilled Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver for criminals. Though he projects an icy exterior, lately he's been warming up to a pretty neighbor named Irene and her young son, Benicio. When Irene's husband gets out of jail, he enlists Driver's help in a million-dollar heist. The job goes horribly wrong, and Driver must risk his life to protect Irene and Benicio from the vengeful masterminds behind the robbery.

Rating: R (Some Nudity|Language|Strong Brutal Bloody Violence)

Genre: Crime, Drama, Action

Original Language: English

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Producer: Marc Platt , Adam Siegel , Gigi Pritzker , Michel Litvak , John Palermo

Writer: Hossein Amini

Release Date (Theaters): Sep 16, 2011  wide

Release Date (Streaming): May 7, 2013

Box Office (Gross USA): $35.1M

Runtime: 1h 40m

Distributor: FilmDistrict

Production Co: Marc Platt Productions, Motel Movies

Cast & Crew

Ryan Gosling

Carey Mulligan

Bryan Cranston

Albert Brooks

Bernie Rose

Oscar Isaac

Ron Perlman

Christina Hendricks

Nicolas Winding Refn

Hossein Amini


David Lancaster

Executive Producer

Gary Michael Walters

Bill Lischak

Linda McDonough

Jeffrey Stott

Adam Siegel

Gigi Pritzker

Michel Litvak

John Palermo

Newton Thomas Sigel


Matthew Newman

Film Editing

Cliff Martinez

Original Music

Beth Mickle

Production Design

Christopher Tandon

Art Director

Lisa K. Sessions

Set Decoration

Erin Benach

Costume Design

Mindy Marin

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Critic Reviews for Drive

Audience reviews for drive.

The patient-man's Transporter. I've never been much of a Ryan Gosling fan (probably why it took me five years to get around to watching Drive). I am a fan of virtually every other cast member in the movie, but I didn't know any of them were in it before I started watching it. Drive wasn't enough to bring me around on to the Ryan Gosling train, but I'll tell you who it definitely did put me on to: Director Nicolas Winding Refn. The direction is truly king here in Drive. There are a couple of stylistic choices that didn't work for me, like the repetitive vocal-heavy montages, and I was not at all enamoured by Gosling's character (he seemed like kind of a dick). But overall I was impressed, and will definitely be on the look out for Refn's work in future. Not only did Drive feature some grandly intense bursts of ultra-violence, it also gave me my first jump scare to make me actually jump in... God... Years. At least. Final rating:??? - I personally recommend you give it a go.

drive hollywood movie review

An instant cult classic. Drive is visually stunning, has a well written story, great soundtrack which are all perfectly crafted by Nicolas Winding Refn. Drive is a masterpiece and is definitely worth your time!

When I first watched this movie all I could think about was how strange it was. Upon second viewing I found this movie much better. Ryan Gosling is flawless as a driver of very few words and elevates Drive to great height

Before you ask, this is not my first Refn movie. In that way, I can know that: - He still likes to dress his crooks with light grey pants and have some of them bald, like if they were still living in Denmark. - He still uses an awesome techno soundtrack (with some pop touches that I can forgive) to open his films and to close them. The underground nudist dive bars / seedy joints cannot be omitted, of course. - He has perfected his visual style all the way from Pusher (1996) until Bronson (2008), including the immaculate camera placement and the golden lightning he uses for illuminating the darkest corners. The camera is a silent stalker, intimidating and seductive at the same time. This turned out to be hist most accessible feature. Winner of a Best Director award and nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, this is not a Hollywood movie. It is a film made in Hollywood by a director that has not resigned to his trademarks and plot-pacing features so that he could get financially greedy. It is a bomb of coolness and style that strikes the senses and assaults your expectations. This is the territory to which Cronenberg attempted twice to return to, placing Viggo Mortensen in more or less convincing roles. Not in this case. Here, violence becomes a protagonist and suspense becomes art. I love Ron Perlman. 97/100

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drive hollywood movie review

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The Driver drives for hire. He has no other name, and no other life. When we first see him, he's the wheelman for a getaway car, who runs from police pursuit not only by using sheer speed and muscle, but by coolly exploiting the street terrain and outsmarting his pursuers. By day, he is a stunt driver for action movies. The two jobs represent no conflict for him: He drives.

As played by Ryan Gosling , he is in the tradition of two iconic heroes of the 1960s: Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name and Alain Delon in " Le Samourai ." He has no family, no history and seemingly few emotions. Whatever happened to him drove any personality deep beneath the surface. He is an existential hero, I suppose, defined entirely by his behavior.

That would qualify him as the hero of a mindless action picture, all CGI and crashes and mayhem. "Drive" is more of an elegant exercise in style, and its emotions may be hidden but they run deep. Sometimes a movie will make a greater impact by not trying too hard. The enigma of the driver is surrounded by a rich gallery of supporting actors who are clear about their hopes and fears, and who have either reached an accommodation with the Driver, or not. Here is still another illustration of the old Hollywood noir principle that a movie lives its life not through its hero, but within its shadows.

The Driver lives somewhere (somehow that's improbable, since we expect him to descend full-blown into the story). His neighbor is Irene, played by Carey Mulligan , that template of vulnerability. She has a young son, Benecio (Kaden Leos), who seems to stir the Driver's affection, although he isn't the effusive type. They grow warm, but in a week, her husband, Standard ( Oscar Isaac ), is released from prison. Against our expectations, Standard isn't jealous or hostile about the new neighbor, but sizes him up, sees a professional and quickly pitches a $1 million heist idea. That will provide the engine for the rest of the story, and as Irene and Benecio are endangered, the Driver reveals deep feelings and loyalties indeed, and undergoes enormous risk at little necessary benefit to himself.

The film by the Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (" Bronson "), based on a novel by James Sallis , peoples its story with characters who bring lifetimes onto the screen, in contrast to the Driver, who brings as little as possible. Ron Perlman seems to be a big-time operator working out of a small-time front, a pizzeria in a strip mall. Albert Brooks , not the slightest bit funny, plays a producer of the kinds of B movies the Driver does stunt driving for — and also has a sideline in crime. These people are ruthless.

More benign is Bryan Cranston , as the kind of man you know the Driver must have behind him, a genius at auto repairs, restoration and supercharging.

I mentioned CGI earlier. "Drive" seems to have little of it. Most of the stunt driving looks real to me, with cars of weight and heft, rather than animated impossible fantasies. The entire film, in fact, seems much more real than the usual action-crime-chase concoctions we've grown tired of. Here is a movie with respect for writing, acting and craft. It has respect for knowledgable moviegoers. There were moments when I was reminded of " Bullitt ," which was so much better than the films it inspired. The key thing you want to feel, during a chase scene, is involvement in the purpose of the chase. You have to care. Too often we're simply witnessing technology.

Maybe there was another reason I thought of "Bullitt." Ryan Gosling is a charismatic actor, as Steve McQueen was. He embodies presence and sincerity. Ever since his chilling young Jewish neo-Nazi in " The Believer " (2001), he has shown a gift for finding arresting, powerful characters. An actor who can fall in love with a love doll and make us believe it, as he did in " Lars and the Real Girl " (2007), can achieve just about anything. "Drive" looks like one kind of movie in the ads, and it is that kind of movie. It is also a rebuke to most of the movies it looks like.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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Drive movie poster

Drive (2011)

Rated R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity

100 minutes

Ryan Gosling as Driver

Carey Mulligan as Irene

Bryan Cranston as Shannon

Albert Brooks as Bernie

Ron Perlman as Nino

Oscar Isaac as Standard

Directed by

  • Nicolas Winding Refn
  • Hossein Amini

Based on the novel by

  • James Sallis

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  • Sept. 15, 2011

A long time ago, as a young filmmaker besotted with the hard-boiled pleasures of classic Hollywood, Jean-Luc Godard claimed that all anyone needed to make a film was a girl and a gun . In his new movie, “Drive,” Nicolas Winding Refn, in thrall to a later Hollywood tradition, tests out a slightly different formula. In this case all you need is a guy and a car.

In the brilliant opening sequence the formula seems to work beautifully. The car is, of all things, a late-model silver Chevy Impala, the kind of generic, functional ride you might rent at the airport on a business trip. The guy is Ryan Gosling — his character has no known proper name, and is variously referred to as “the driver,” “the kid” and “him” — and to watch him steer through Los Angeles at night is to watch a virtuoso at work. Behind the wheel of a getaway car after an uninteresting, irrelevant and almost botched robbery, the driver glides past obstacles and shakes off pursuers, slowing down as often as he accelerates and maintaining a steady pulse rate even as the soundtrack winds up the tension to heart attack levels.

The virtuosity on display is also the director’s, of course, and that, for better and for worse, is pretty much the point of “Drive,” the coolest movie around and therefore the latest proof that cool is never cool enough. Mr. Winding Refn is a Danish-born director (“Bronson,” “Valhalla Rising,” the “Pusher” trilogy), some of whose earlier films have inspired ardent, almost cultish devotion in cinephile circles.

<strong>Drive</strong>, with Ryan Gosling. The film, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, opens on Friday nationwide.

His own love of movies can hardly be doubted, and there’s nothing wrong with his taste. He likes the stripped-down highway movies of the 1960s and ’70s — the kind that Quentin Tarantino celebrated in “Death Proof” — and also the atmospheric masculine melancholy associated with Michael Mann . You might also catch a hint of Paul Schrader’s “American Gigolo” and, with respect to the story rather than to the visual style, a whole bunch of Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone westerns.

Mr. Gosling’s driver, like Mr. Eastwood’s Man With No Name , is a solitary figure with no background or connections but with skills that defy explanation. In addition to his getaway gigs, he drives stunt cars for movies — the source of a witty trompe l’oeil sequence early in the film — and might have a future on the racing circuit.

At least that’s what his friend and sometime employer Shannon (Bryan Cranston) thinks. He has a plan to persuade a couple of local gangsters (Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks) to invest in a car that will be both Shannon’s and the driver’s ticket out of their marginal, sun-baked, film noir existence.

You don’t need me to tell you that the plan goes astray and that before too long the girl and the gun come into play, in more or less that order. The girl’s name is Irene, she is played by Carey Mulligan, and she lives with her young son down the hall from the driver. A neighborly flirtation is disrupted by the return from prison of Irene’s husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), who gets pulled back into his old life of crime in such a way as to bring out the guns and require from the driver a few gruesomely violent acts of chivalry.

There is a bag full of money, a crosshatching of vendettas and betrayals, and an ambience of crepuscular Southern California anomie. There is also one scene of pure automotive pleasure, when the driver takes Irene and her son on a cruise along the kind of concrete culvert that has often been used for car chases in the past. But this is not “The Big Lebowski,” which took such delight in its status as pastiche that it ended up in a zone of wild originality and real feeling. “Drive” is somber, slick and earnest, and also a prisoner of its own emptiness, substituting moods for emotions and borrowed style for real audacity.

This is not to say that the movie is bad — as I have suggested, the skill and polish are hard to dispute — but rather that it is, for all its bravado, timid and conventional. In the hands of great filmmakers (like Mr. Eastwood and Mr. Godard, to stick with relevant examples) genre can be a bridge between familiar narrative structures and new insights about how people interact and behave. Those are precisely what “Drive” is missing, in spite of some intriguingly nuanced performances.

The softness of Mr. Gosling’s face and his curiously high-pitched, nasal voice make him an unusually sweet-seeming avenger, even when he is stomping bad guys into bloody pulp. And Ms. Mulligan’s whispery diction and kewpie-doll features have a similarly disarming effect. Irene seems like much too nice a person to be mixed up in such nasty business. Not that she’s really mixed up in it. Her innocence is axiomatic and part of the reason the driver goes to such messianic lengths to protect her.

To make the movie work on its own constricted terms, you need — beyond this girl and this guy, and the cars and the weapons — a colorful supporting cast. And this is what saves “Drive” from arch tedium: Mr. Cranston’s wheezing, anxious loser; Christina Hendricks’s seething, taciturn underworld professional; and above all Mr. Brooks’s diabolically nebbishy incarnation of corruption and venality.

In his self-authored comic roles, Mr. Brooks often exudes a passive-aggressive hostility, a latent capacity for violence held in check by neurosis and cowardice. He lets you assume the same in “Drive” until the moment he stabs someone in the eye with a fork. It’s a shocking and oddly glorious moment — something a lot of us, without quite knowing it or being able to explain just why, have been waiting 30 years to see.

“Drive” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Acts of gruesomely violent chivalry and vehicular aggression.

Opens on Friday nationwide.

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn; written by Hossein Amini, based on the book by James Sallis; director of photography, Newton Thomas Sigel; edited by Matthew Newman; music by Cliff Martinez; production design by Beth Mickle; costumes by Erin Benach; produced by Marc Platt, Adam Siegel, John Palermo, Gigi Pritzker and Michel Litvak; released by FilmDistrict. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes.

WITH : Ryan Gosling (Driver), Carey Mulligan (Irene), Bryan Cranston (Shannon), Christina Hendricks (Blanche), Ron Perlman (Nino), Oscar Isaac (Standard) and Albert Brooks (Bernie Rose).

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Movie Review: 'Drive' is a moody, intense, stylish ride

Film DistrictCutinerueruerer.

3.5 stars out of 4

Ryan Gosling is one of the hottest actors right now, but that doesn't mean everyone's going to love "Drive," in which he stars as a man with no name, a man of few words, a man with whom you do not want to mess.

Oh, but some of you? You've been waiting for this.

Danish filmmaker Nicholas Winding Refn gives a moody European take on American hardboiled noir, taking James Sallis' novel and setting it in the L.A. underbelly of seedy diners, downtown apartments and ratty motels.

It has style to burn: It's beautifully shot and edited - I mean, it's just flat-out gorgeous - with a fantastic soundtrack and gripping, spare story of double-cross after double-cross. Film geeks will love it, study it, dissect it and watch it over and over. They should.

It's audacious: There were moments in "Drive" - check out its opening sequence; later watch for the lights dimming inside an elevator - that wrapped me up more fully than any movie I've seen in perhaps two or three years.

Judging from the reaction at a preview screening, however, some mainstream audiences will have problems with its long, wordless passages, heavy on mood and suggestion instead of the usual exposition and canned Hollywood banter.

"For a movie called 'Drive,' I thought it would have more driving in it," said one wit who was leaving the theater.

"Yeah. Should have called it 'Stare,' " said another.

More of a problem, however: "Drive's" scenes of violence. There are only a few, but they are deliberately over-the-top - squishy, crunchy, I-can't-believe-they're-showing-that moments of cinematic gore, made more potent by their rarity and suddenness. I get it: Violence isn't pretty, and Refn pushes the limits, as Quentin Tarantino did in the 1990s (of course he was copying the work of his own heroes).

I think "Drive" pushes it a little too far, in one scene in particular. But give it credit: I'm still thinking about the movie and probably will for a while longer - long after more timid stories will have vanished from memory.

Gosling, with a toothpick in his mouth and a scorpion on the back of his jacket, is all Steve McQueen cool, and gets fine support from a gallery of rogues including Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman and the amazing Albert Brooks. Carey Mulligan, meanwhile, is terrific as a sweet waif with a little kid at home and a husband in prison, the kind of woman who can put a rare grin on the Driver's face, the kind of woman who can make this isolated man attempt one last noble good deed that, quite clearly, is going to get him and everyone around him in deep, bloody trouble.

"I could come with you," the Driver tells her. "I could look out for you." Look at the storm coming toward him, though, and figure the odds on that happening.

1 hour, 50 minutes. A strong R. Brutal violence, strip-club nudity, profanity.

Drive Review


23 Sep 2011

100 minutes

Alan Ladd's 1953 classic Western Shane is a tale of a man who, trying to escape his past, turns up at a homestead and, in trying to save a woman and her child from black-hats, finds himself drawn inexorably back into the violence he has tried to escape. Drive is very much like Shane, in that it has a strong, silent hero, determined to do right by the innocent while struggling against his character which, as Heraclitus so pithily put it, is also his fate. But it also has a sequence of a man having his cranium reduced to a bloody pulp by an enthusiastically deployed boot à la Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible, someone gets a fork shoved in their face, and a good portion of it is shot in slow motion. It is therefore that much better.

Nicolas Winding Refn, a Danish director best known for the Pusher trilogy and 2008’s thug-opic Bronson, is proof of the fact that American pulp is sometimes much better done by Europeans. Think of Paul Verhoeven’s mischievous satires RoboCop and Starship Troopers. Here Refn delivers a gripping, gritty neo-noir drenched in so much mid-’80s styling that the only thing that seems to be missing is Simon Bates thanking us for listening and exhorting us to enjoy the film.

Refn’s skills are not limited to artfully conceived bloodletting: an opening sequence in which our hero practises his trade, transporting a pair of thieves from their place of business to safety, dodging, parking and reversing, is a masterclass of cutting in which the precision of the editing matches that of the driving (and actually it’s far more exciting than the more conventional car chase later in the movie). Meanwhile Newton Thomas Sigel’s sheeny cinematography delivers gorgeous chopper shots of the neon-flecked night-time streets of LA and moody renderings of asphalt car parks, race-tracks and diners. The cumulative and exhilarating sensation is that Walter Hill or William Friedkin made an urban noir sometime back in 1986 and somehow you missed it (and it’s easily as good as The Driver or To Live And Die In LA).

And Refn’s good taste extends to the casting. Carey Mulligan might not have a lot to do, but she looks believably vulnerable; Albert Brooks proves that actors more familiar with comedy can often turn on their menacing side to great effect (it’s he who gets to stick a fork in a guy’s face), while Ron Perlman, well, as usual Ron Perlman just has to turn up, really.

And then there’s Ryan Gosling. Starmaking roles are as rare as actual stars these days, but this just might be one. Gosling pushes the strong, silent (exceptionally pretty) type almost, but only almost, to parody. Toothpick permanently wedged between his teeth (an obvious nod to Clint Eastwood’s ’60s cheroot, and indeed, the ‘no-name hero’ and vengeance fantasy plot reinforce the feeling that this might be as much Western as thriller), he channels the glacially imperturbable attitude of Steve McQueen. He even manages to make what looks like a quilted jacket sporting a yellow scorpion emblazoned on the back — a nod either to Kenneth Anger’s cult 1964 short Scorpio Rising or the fable of The Scorpion And The Frog, depending on who you believe — look like something you might want to check out on your next visit to Topman. An actor hasn’t looked this cool in rubbish duds since Brad Pitt in that teapot dressing-gown in Fight Club. But Drive’s primary pleasure is its astonishingly realised retro style: it’s as if someone distilled a tincture of the ’80s, all cocaine attitude and Giorgio Moroder, and mainlined it into something like the present. Top Gear, then.

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Breaking news, 2024 grammy nominations revealed: sza leads, followed by taylor swift, billie eilish, olivia rodrigo, ‘drive’: cannes 2011 review.

The arty Danish fast-cars-and-crime thriller, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, should be promotable to good box office results from both discerning and popcorn audiences come September.

By Todd McCarthy

Todd McCarthy

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Never speaking unless absolutely necessary, Gosling’s unnamed Driver works doing movie stunts during the day and moonlights as a robbery getaway driver. The sharply executed opening sequence shows Driver’s complete mastery of Los Angeles streets, as well as his grace under pressure, as he threads his way through a net of police cars and helicopters to escape from a nocturnal warehouse break-in.

Drawn to an appealing neighbor in his near-downtown apartment building, Irene ( Carey Mulligan ), Driver does more talking with his eyes than with his mouth. An initial exchange between them sums up the semi-philosophical, borderline hilarious sort of dialogue that often finds its way into this kind of fare. Irene: “Whaddya’ do?” Driver: “I drive.”

We never learn much more about the man than that, but he quickly takes a strong interest in the welfare of this young woman, who has a cute young son ( Kaden Leo s) whose dad is in prison. At the same time, it appears that Driver’s professional fortunes might be improving, as his longtime boss and patron, gimpy-legged auto shop owner Shannon ( Bryan Cranston ) makes a deal with big-bucks investor Bernie Rose ( Albert Brooks ) to back Driver as a stock car racer.

The lulls between set pieces tend to be quiet and moody, which dramatically offsets the efficiently executed car chases and the killings that mount up — and become increasing gory — as the bad deeds multiply. The downtime never threatens to become dull, not with this cast nor with Refn’s lively style and the wildly eclectic soundtrack that’s embedded in techno music but extends well beyond it. 

All the same, Hossein Amini ’s adaptation of James Sallis’ short novel feels more threadbare than bracingly terse; he’s clearly aspiring to the sort of spare muscularity in crime writing pioneered by Hemingway in The Killers and subsequently employed by many others. Amini simply doesn’t build enough subtext and layering beneath the surface of the characters and dialogue; the tough talk is simply not loaded the way it is in the best noirs, so the lack of resonance is manifest.

So it’s a fun, if not exhilarating, ride, one sped along with the help of a wonderfully assembled cast. Gosling here makes a bid to enter the iconic ranks of tough, self-possessed American screen actors — Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Lee Marvin — who express themselves through actions rather than words. Sometimes (mostly around Irene), his Driver smiles too much, but Gosling assumes just the right posture of untroubled certainty in the driving scenes and summons unsuspected reserves when called upon for very rough stuff later on.

Mulligan, seen only in classy fare up to now, is a delightful choice as the sweet but bereft Irene, while Isaac invests his jailbird with unanticipated intelligence and sincerity. Christina Hendricks isn’t around for long but makes a strong impression as an accomplice in an ill-advised robbery. Cranston applies craggy color to his good-guy loser, while Perlman pushes the evil all the way. Most surprising of all, however, is Brooks, who is wonderful as a rich, reasonable-sounding gent who’s better than the others at hiding that he’s a total s.o.b.  

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By Peter Travers

Peter Travers

Buckle up for the existential bloodbath of Drive , a brilliant piece of nasty business that races on a B-movie track until it switches to the dizzying fuel of undiluted creativity. Damn, it’s good. You can get buzzed just from the fumes coming off this wild thing. 

That’s Ryan Gosling at the wheel. He plays Driver (I told you it was existential), a Hollywood stunt racer who moonlights as a getaway wheel man.  Gosling is dynamite in the role, silent, stoic, radiating mystery. Driver isn’t into planning robberies. He doesn’t carry a gun. “I drive,” he says. And he proves it in an opening chase scene so thrillingly intense and cleanly edited it will give you whiplash.

Sharing Drive ‘s metaphorical wheel is Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, a sensation on the Euro art-house circuit with the bruising Pusher trilogy, Valhalla Rising and Bronson . Refn makes his Hollywood debut with Drive without putting his soul or his balls on the auction block. Refn is a virtuoso, blending tough and tender with such uncanny skill that he deservedly won the Best Director prize at Cannes.

Drive was once intended as a fast-and-furious blockbuster for Hugh Jackman. Then Gosling stepped in and met Refn. As the actor drove the director home, the radio blasted REO Speedwagon, and Refn began rocking out. That was it. Their movie would evoke what it is to drive around listening to music and trying to feel something.

Drive is a genre movie. So watch for comparisons, especially to films of the Seventies and Eighties that pulsate with a synth score. Think early Michael Mann ( Thief ) and William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. Driver is a loner, suggesting Alain Delon in Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï . Like Alan Ladd in George Stevens’ classic Western Shane , the loner meets a woman, Irene (Carey Mulligan), with a young son (Kaden Leos). She also has an ex-con husband (Oscar Isaac), so Driver must hold in his urges until, well, he can’t.

Editor’s picks

The 500 greatest albums of all time, the 50 worst decisions in movie history, the biggest, messiest band breakups in music history, the 500 greatest songs of all time.

Chances are you could play the name-that-influence game for days, and I’d happily join you. But that’d be a disservice to Drive , since Refn, like Quentin Tarantino, has the gift of assimilating film history into a fresh take carrying his DNA. Take his fetishistic eye for detail, from Driver’s toothpick to the satin bomber jacket with a gold scorpion on its back.

Refn is wicked good with actors, paring down the dialogue in the script by Hossein Amini (deftly adapted from James Sallis’ novel) so that the backstory must play out on their faces. Challenge met. Gosling mesmerizes in a role a lesser actor could tip into absurdity. Bryan Cranston, on fire with Breaking Bad , brings wit and compassion to Driver’s fatherly mentor. And Mulligan is glorious, inhabiting a role that is barely there and making it resonant and whole. Prepare to be blown away by Albert Brooks, cast way against type as crime boss Bernie Rose. Brooks, an iconically sharp comic voice, has toyed with villainy before (see Out of Sight ), but never like this. Brooks’ performance, veined with dark humor and chilling menace (watch him with a blade), deserves to have Oscar calling.

Violence drives Drive . A heist gone bad involving a femme fatale (an incendiary cameo from Mad Men ‘s Christina Hendricks) puts blood on the walls. Ditto a pounding Driver delivers at a strip club. An elevator scene with Driver, Irene and an assassin is time-capsule sexy and scary. In league with camera whiz Newton Thomas Sigel and composer Cliff Martinez, Refn creates a fever dream that sucks you in. Or maybe you’ll hate it. Drive is a polarizer. It’s also pure cinema, a grenade of image and sound ready to blow.

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