Tag Archives: Ryan Gosling

Movie Review: ‘Drive’

28 Dec

By Chris Engelhardt

Ryan Gosling stars in “Drive,” Credit: “Drive" Facebook Page

 

Sometimes, an actor’s performance outshines a film as a whole. Such can be said of Ryan Gosling’s sharp, intense performance in “Drive,” a feature where not everything works, but where its finer qualities prove both excellent and effective.

Though “Drive” has its moments of predictability—there’s always a love story—and mostly solid, albeit quiet performances, the film is really an exercise in visual style, accompanied with grip-tight action and set to a fantastic Eighties-sounding synth score. The first half of “Drive” is the warm-up, plot-establishing period—the second half roars with compelling visuals, intensity and shockingly graphic violence. It’s the latter, in addition to another strong performance by Gosling, which triumphs the otherwise mediocre plot.

The locale is sunny California. That’s where we meet Driver (Gosling), a mechanic for his boss Shannon’s (Bryan Cranston) auto repair shop, and a professional stunt driver for the movie business. His life is centered on driving—it’s what he knows, and he knows it well. By night, though, he lives life on the edge as a getaway driver for criminals.

Driver follows through with a meticulous routine for each heist—he sets his watch and places it on the wheel of his car. All they get is five minutes. Driver, calm and confident, doesn’t carry a gun—he just gets criminals to where they need to go. Even before the opening credits roll, we see him in action, outrunning police with great speed and hiding under cover from the spotlights of helicopters. We see the risk of the job—we feel the danger.

But Driver finds himself traveling down an unexpected road when he comes to know Irene (a mellow Carey Mulligan), his neighbor who lives right down the hall of their apartment building. They go from acquaintances to something more after Irene’s faulty car breaks down, and Driver gives her and her son, Benicio (Kaden Leos), a lift home.

“What do you do?” Irene asks him in one scene.

“I drive,” he says.

“Is it dangerous?”

“It’s only part time.”

The truth is, driving is his life. It’s his identity. It’s all he has, until, with no surprise, he takes greater interest in Irene, and develops a friendly relationship with Benicio. The catch is that Irene has a husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac). He returns home after serving time in prison, and brings a major problem along with him: a debt he needs to pay off. Threats have been made against his family. Driver, who’s grown close to the family, offers to help Standard pull off a heist to protect Irene and Benicio. But after the heist goes terribly wrong, Driver becomes the target of crime bosses Bernie Rose (a blade-wielding, blood-thirsty Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman), and vies, despite heavy danger, to do everything he can do protect Irene and Benicio.

“Drive,” based on the James Sallis’ novel, operates on a familiar, yet lively plot. We’ve seen and experienced many a time the tale of a man who meets a woman, becomes romantically linked with her, and later finds himself rescuing her from a predicament. We’ve also seen far too many heist-gone-wrong pictures. These elements of the plot are really nothing new, nothing fresh.

But director Nicolas Winding Refn, who won the directing prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for the movie, provides us with a brilliant spectacle. His arsenal of camera shots and technical expertise result in a beautifully painted picture. And whether a car-chase scene, or the slowly unfolding romance between Driver and Irene, Refn has a specialty for creating an atmosphere of heightened suspense.  Where “Drive” also succeeds is in its shock value—The threat against those our lead character cares for very much brings to light a darker, more aggressive and brutal side of a man we thought we understood initially. It’s an astonishing twist that makes for some truly gripping scenes.

Gosling, the engine of the film, doesn’t just turn it up a notch—he turns the dial to its breaking point. It works. And much like in “The Ides of March,” Gosling maintains a strong screen presence, authority, and sincerity as an actor. Here, he turns in a vehement, volatile and slightly disturbing performance that’s not meant to be taken lightly. He gracefully shifts in personality and conveys the inner emotions of his character through his expressive eyes and emotive face. He allows us, as great actors do, to care for a character—one who is very much an enigma in this case—who we shouldn’t necessarily feel an iota of sympathy for.  Buckle up, “Drive,” though at times bumpy, is a hell of a ride. Grade: A-

(Article copy-edited by Tiffany Mesk Mattson for ChrisEngelhardt.com)

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Movie Review: The Ides of March

1 Nov

By Chris Engelhardt

Ryan Gosling and George Clooney star in The Ides of March. Credit: The Ides of March Facebook Page

 

 

“There’s only one thing I value in this world, and that’s loyalty,” Philip Seymour Hoffman tells Ryan Gosling early on in The Ides of March. “Without it, you are nothing.”

Both loyalty, and the lack thereof, are arguably the prevailing themes in March, a juggernaut of a political drama which touts an air-tight screenplay and enthralls with a top of the line ensemble cast.

Gosling stars as Stephen Meyers, a diligent press secretary for Democratic presidential candidate and current Pennsylvania Gov. Mike Morris (George Clooney). Morris, an open-minded idealist, is locked in a head-to-head Ohio primary race against Arkansas Senator Pullman (Michael Mantell). Much is at stake. And as both candidates tackle the issues and concerns of citizens to garner support, it’s up to Stephen and campaign manager Paul Zara (Hoffman) to do everything in their power to secure Morris the state of Ohio.

Morale is high for Morris’ campaign. All seems to be running smoothly, until an unprecedented phone call from Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), Pullman’s campaign manager. He contacts Stephen and stresses that they meet privately. Stephen agrees, reluctantly, and they meet. Duffy’s news, it turns out, is a threat to the Morris campaign. Ohio, he says, is in the bag for Pullman. What’s more, Duffy tries to entice Stephen to work for the Pullman campaign, because he’s “working for the wrong man.”

He vehemently declines. But Stephen, overwhelmed with guilt, confesses to Paul his meeting with Tom. That’s when The Ides of March begins its slow transition into a superb narrative. With loyalties in question, the media, including journalist Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei) vying for inside information, and unexpected secrets threatening the success of Morris’ campaign, March expands into a gripping tale of political friction, power and corruption.

The film, directed by Clooney, is visually decent, but where it excels is in its story. The Ides of March is about dirty politics, and what people will do to get ahead in the game, no matter how, no matter the cost. Clooney brilliantly illustrates both. It also calls into question whether or not those who run for office can remain true to themselves and their values, or if they must surrender their ideals in order to win.

The screenplay, which Clooney co-wrote, is based on the play Farragut North by Beau Willimon. March takes us into a highly politically-charged climate and behind closed doors where we as viewers are privy to the strategies, tactics, and plans of these characters. We come to understand how Stephen and company operate, how they think, how they strategize. But it’s not all about politics—the story, smartly, shifts from the campaign trail to the personal lives of these people, although politics, for the most part, are what define them.

Every performance is focused and authoritative.  Everyone, from Gosling to Clooney, from Hoffman to Giamatti, to Evan Rachel Wood (in an understated, though important performance as intern Molly Stearns), brings depth and poignancy to a story with perfectly planted twists and subplots you don’t see coming. The Ides of March captivates until its final frame.   Grade: A

(Article copy-edited by Tiffany Mesk Mattson for ChrisEngelhardt.com)