Illustration: Adeline Pericart
We laughed, we cried, we sneaked in our own popcorn. 2011 brought with it some memorable trips to the cinema to revel in the joy of film. And so the Film Ireland collection of filmbots look back in love and recall their favourite films of the last year in the latest installment of…
We Love… 2011
(Nicolas Winding Refn)
‘…more intense than the scariest horror movie, more surreal than David Lynch on mushrooms, and better acted than the most true-lifey Oscar®-beggar…’
Every now and then a movie comes along that reminds you why you fork out a tenner to go to the cinema. It’s not always event movies, either – sometimes the big screen’s best advantage is the cocoon of silence it can create around you with the right film. And Drive is exactly that right film – more intense than the scariest horror movie, more surreal than David Lynch on mushrooms, and better acted than the most true-lifey Oscar®-beggar. Without a doubt, the movie of 2011, Drive is in contention for movie of the decade – one year in.
Subtle without being slow, it is punctuated by alternating moments of tenderness and brutality that leave you gasping for air – much of this down to Ryan Gosling’s stunning performance, and his sterling decision to bring Nicolas Winding Refn on board as director. Winning ‘Prix de la Mise en Scène’ at the Cannes Film Festival above luminary competition shows the permeating power of Drive. Refn had the gumption to create a magnificently American neo-noir thriller, but the wisdom to bring his European sensibilities to play in adding depth, character and passion to the project. Alongside Gosling’s intensity and silent command of the screen, Carey Mulligan as Irene proves the perfect princess for this knight-errant. Their onscreen chemistry bubbles while they say very little – The Driver, indeed, giving more in silence than a million onscreen lovers could manage with words.
Not to be outdone, the supporting cast is perfection itself – from Ron Perlman’s disturbingly brutal Nino to Bryan Cranston’s pitiful Shannon, each actor, no matter how small the role, gives everything to their performance. Hovering above them, trying to keep dirt from sticking, Albert Brooks’ Bernie Rose steers The Driver onto a dangerous road. The result is a well-rounded web of interplay that allows us to feel as sorry for Christina Hendricks’ Blanche getting her head blown off as we do for Oscar Isaac’s Standard meeting his own terminal Waterloo.
The electronic soundtrack bleeds ’80s europop, and the clothes and scenery bolster this reimagining of a gritty and forgotten L.A. as a timeless land where fairytales play out on extreme levels. Coupled together, the music and the direction give not so much a sense of loss, but more a sense of never-having. Teetering constantly on the edge of happy ending, nothing more encapsulates the perfection of Drive than the elevator scene as the end draws near. Standing beside Irene, after noticing the hitman beside them, The Driver grabs her and kisses her so passionately that you can almost touch the electricity, before turning without missing a beat and brutally stomping in the head of the man who would kill them both.
Less about actual driving than what drives people to behave the way they do, to violence, to flee, and to fall in love, the movie reminds us of what can be done with cinema. Minus CGI, stripped bare of dialogue, and a veritable Frankenstein of moments from the great eras of cinema, that Drive not only exists but drew cinema-goers in high numbers proves conclusively that audiences need not be treated like idiots. Intelligent cinema can exist, does exist, and entertains like hell when it arrives.