Chilling to the bone but achingly stylish, Drive is the masterpiece work from Nicolas Winding Refn.
Your ear won’t have had to be too close to the ground to have heard about Nicolas Winding Refn. Having written and directed internationally applauded films since he was twenty-four, perhaps most notably the 2009 Tom Hardy breakout character study Bronson and the quasi-religious Viking epic Valhalla Rising. The premise of his latest foray, Drive, sounds like the pipe dream aspirations of a nine year-old boy. By day Ryan Gosling is a Hollywood stunt driver, by night he offers his not inconsiderable services to local criminals as a getaway driver. Things seem to be under control until he agrees to help the freshly-out-of-prison husband of his beautiful neighbour Carey Mulligan in one final heist. Unsurprisingly things don’t go according to plan and he finds himself, and his neighbour’s family, in the sights of local mobsters.
Anyone who has seen his previous work will know how adept Refn is at crafting subtly stylised worlds for his films. In this case, creating characters and environments dripping in late 80’s nostalgia. From the font of the opening credits to the sublime disco theme song, this is a film unashamed of referencing its predecessors, and does so without ever feeling like an empty homage.
Gosling captures the dark side his unnamed character keeps hidden below his apparently calm surface perfectly. Tightfistedly economic in his speech yet excessively violent in his actions, he manages to display the kind of acting chops that justify his one-way ticket to the A-list. Drive is a film that pulls off ‘cool’ in the best possible way – effortlessly.
i-D online spoke to Winding Refn, who we found to be equally as charismatic and enigmatic as his fictional lead character, and who asked as many questions as he was posed…
Drive is released today.
Text: Joe Iley