“Driver” (Ryan Gosling) is well named, that is what he does, a getaway driver for hire, motor racing or whatever.
“You give me a time and a place, I give you a five minute window. Anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours. No matter what. Anything happens a minute either side of that and you’re on your own”
So begins this hyper stylised thriller that moves Gosling several rungs up the “cool” ladder. Think Steve Mcqueen for generation “Y”.
“Driver” gets by quite happily, doing the occasional getaway job, flipping cars as a stunt driver for the movies or as a grease monkey for Shannon (Bryan Cranston). “Driver” keeps to himself and lives in a anonymous apartment. Meeting his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son by chance one day, a connection is made.
Irene has a husband in jail, meanwhile “Driver” gets to help out around the house and befriends the family, although how far the friendship extends is never made quite clear. There is a lot that is not explained in the running time but that is part of the films charm.
The first half of the film is a beautiful character study, with Mulligan proving what a great actress she already is, with Gosling excelling in a role with almost minimal dialogue.
When Irene’s husband is released, a plan is set in motion. Well intentioned but out of character for “Driver”, his anonymous and low interaction lifestyle is suddenly at risk. A decision which he may or may not, live to regret.
Suddenly the story takes a turn for the dark, graphic violence replacing the character study before. The story remains strong whilst the violence, perhaps not unjustified, is brutal and in the audiences face. Does it add or detract from the story, debatable. Which is a shame because the certificate will limit the audience and this is a good tale, well told.
Bad guy duties are performed by “Nino” Ron Perlman, who can do this in his sleep and Bernie “Albert Brooks” playing very much against type. Both characters are near mid level crooks, just passing the shit downwards as fast as they can, attempting to keep one “hit” away from mobbed up unseen characters.
Noir in style, neon lights shimmering on still puddles in parking lots, sterile environments reminiscent of Taxi driver in some ways. Urban alienation and lack of a community spirit embodied in the ambiguous ending, that may not please all.
Director Nicholas Winding Renfg finds a unique style, which is sure to be copied and to use a phrase, is “so hot right now”, perfectly in keeping with the current mood and feel.
Not perfect perhaps but as close as you might expect, a small film made to feel big in heart and content. Great acting all round including Cranston who moves ever further away from his comic TV persona.
Watch the first half happily with the family, the second only with those with strong stomachs.
Fine work from a young director with more to say and an unusual way of saying it.
Film Noir for the younger generation, a fine thriller with plenty of depth and interesting themes, not for the feint of heart in places.