Drive Poster Rating: ★★★★½

One scene that defines the stylish and disciplined vigor of “Drive” transpires inside a slim, narrow elevator. Our heroes enter the elevator; the doors slam shut. By the time they open again, we have been taken through a hint of suspense, a moment of intimacy, and finally, a burst of ultra-violence. That the movie was able to depict and contain three different moods in a limited space and time astounds me.  This is the rare kind of movie that fully values its existence, using every second of its running time for its benefit.

“Drive” stars Ryan Gosling, the Oscar-nominated actor who was given more international appreciation in his previous work as Jacob Palmer in “Crazy, Stupid, Love”. Here, a name eludes him as promotions only refer to his character as “Driver”. The inquisitive effect of a screen name like Driver reminds us of Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club, who was only identified in the credits as “Narrator”. Both evoke the same aura of ambiguity, although the Gosling character is more subtle and composed.

Carey Mulligan and Ryan GoslingDriver’s professional and personal life is centered around cars. He occupies the role of a stunt driver for the movies. He also works as a mechanic, fixing cars when he’s not flipping them on set. Beyond that, he also participates in robberies by agreeing to be the getaway driver. Driving seems to keep Driver occupied. He hardly ever speaks. Ask him a question, and his words halt after the answer is given. There are not more than two instances in the entire film where he speaks three sentences in a row. His quiet nature strays away from conventional personalities and takes us to a person so perplexing, even his fellow characters join the audience in trying to understand him.

Driver doesn’t fit the profile of the commercial action hero. He doesn’t have a sense of humor, nor does he fancy fashion and attention. He isn’t decorated like The Transporter or every other Dwayne Johnson character ever. He has his own issues with the law. Sure, the movie features a pretty girl for him to fall in love with, but this is not to give him a love interest, but a motivation.  He doesn’t try to be a hero, but the circumstances give him the opportunity to act like one.

The physical intensity that may seem to be hiding within the Gosling character is made up for by the exceedingly elegant style of Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. The brilliant opening sequence tells us that Refn is uninfluenced by the works of the majority. We see Driver in a car chase with the cops, but Refn treats the dark streets as a puzzle for suspense rather than a playground of destruction. Driver makes use of streetlights, blind spots and empty corners as a way to outsmart his opponents. Michael Bay will be disappointed by the absence of explosions.

Ryan Gosling as DriverCarey Mulligan also stars as Irene, a lonely mother waiting for her husband to return home from prison. Driver, who shares the same apartment building, feels her solitude. He keeps her company, but conversations are occasional. The movie invests in their relationship in a way that the plot doesn’t set in until the half hour mark. Driver’s secret life results into serious trouble with some powerful, cruel men. He intends to keep Irene as safe as possible.

To call “Drive” an action movie would not do it justice. It’s not just about cars getting smashed. Not a lot of action movies are praised for its moments of silence. I like it when emotions and stories are told through stares, moods, and music. When Driver realizes that he might not be able to return, he calls Irene, and tells her how he feels. Simple words, but we sense its weight because those words came from a guy who hardly ever speaks three sentences in a row.

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