The wheel deal

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - LEIGH PAATSCH

PEO­PLE who know film will im­me­di­ately recog­nise the stylis­tic in­flu­ences at work in Drive – par­tic­u­larly the spar­tan spaghetti west­erns of Ser­gio Leone and the sleek crime opuses of Michael Mann – but will also ap­pre­ci­ate the un­com­mon as­sur­ance and orig­i­nal flair with which they have been ap­plied.

All the ev­i­dence can be found in this film’s mas­ter­ful open­ing scenes.

Ryan Gosling ( pic­tured) plays a char­ac­ter known only as Driver. He is parked on the kerb of a grubby Los An­ge­les back street, wait­ing to as­sist a pair of bur­glars with their get­away.

The po­lice ar­rive as the trio is leav­ing. The fuzz have a fleet of pur­suit ve­hi­cles on the ground and a chop­per cir­cling over­head. What will Driver do? Not what you’re ex­pect­ing, that’s for sure. In­stead of burn­ing some rub­ber and bar­relling through red lights and busy in­ter­sec­tions, Driver plays it cool.

At times, he stops his ve­hi­cle com­pletely. At other times, he stays well be­neath the speed limit, oc­ca­sion­ally switch­ing his head­lights on or off. In min­utes the cops are left for dead, even though Driver and his pas­sen­gers re­main right un­der their very noses.

This in­tro­duc­tory se­quence is one of the finest stretches of film­mak­ing you will en­counter in 2011. It es­tab­lishes the eerie calm and psy­cho­log­i­cal re­solve that will carry Driver through­out the pic­ture.

It also draws at­ten­tion to the un­com­monly gifted di­rec­tion of Ni­co­las Wind­ing Refn, a Dan­ish film­maker whose com­mand of rhythm and mood dur­ing Drive is as in­tim­i­dat­ing as it is ir­re­sistible.

As the movie opens up to let us chisel away at the stony fa­cade of Driver – Gosling plays him with a sto­icism that re­calls Clint East­wood and Steve Mc­queen in their prime – there are other mys­ter­ies afoot.

His pla­tonic re­la­tion­ship with a lonely neigh­bour ( Carey Mul­li­gan) and her young son only serves to re­move fur­ther pieces from the puz­zle.

Then there’s the cu­ri­ous in­flu­ence wielded by Driver’s long- time boss and fa­ther fig­ure Shan­non ( Bryan Cranston), who seems to have kept his young friend gain­fully and dis­dain­fully em­ployed.

Shan­non’s un­com­fort­able as­so­ci­a­tion with two lo­cal mob­sters ( Al­bert Brooks and Ron Perl­man, both cast to per­fec­tion) blurs an al­ready hazy road ahead for Driver.

There can be no deny­ing Drive presents pay­ing pas­sen­gers with one in­cred­i­ble ride. With both hands on the wheel and the pedal pressed flat to the floor, this bril­liant, fo­cused thriller pro­ceeds swiftly to­wards true cin­e­matic great­ness.

En route, the movie swerves, brakes, speeds up and slows down with as­ton­ish­ing pre­ci­sion.

You will be hang­ing on for dear life and yet hop­ing the jour­ney never ends. Best of all, once the clos­ing cred­its roll, noth­ing has been left in the tank.

Drive is one of the best films you will see this year.

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