If the majority of people were given a choice between a major Hollywood production or an artistic independent movie, on any given day it would be big budget, big action, big stars. What makes this film so unique is its ability to blur the line between both and create a mix of Hollywood-style action and art-house flair which is unlike anything I have ever seen before.
Need for Speed. In one of the tensest opening scenes I have ever seen, the audiences are introduced to Ryan Gosling's character – 'Driver'. Indeed, he is never named but Refn (the director) uses this to his advantage by creating a persona with a mysterious lifestyle and switching between stunt driver, mechanic, and even the odd getaway driver. Seemingly a loner, the driver becomes involved in the life of his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan). An awkward encounter ignites romance, between them until the surprising arrival of her newly paroled husband Standard (Poe Dameron himself – Oscar Isaac) begins 'working' with the driver. Illegal conflicts always create thrilling elements so Drive is no exception merging an unforgettable plotline with some beautiful cinematography from a massively talented director – Nicolas Winding Refn actually won Best Director at Cannes 2011 for Drive.
Noah from The Notebook. As a male and not too fond of romance movies (but Silver Linings Playbook and Her were fantastic), I couldn't look at Ryan Gosling without thinking of his soppy performances in his previous roles. But now I can't 'un-see' him as Driver. Personally, I could argue that Drive is Gosling's best work yet. As the protagonist, he can alter the tension by simply widening his eyes or the subtle tensing of his jawline especially when he is pushed to act more forcefully. He can transition from silent observer to brutal aggressor so swiftly it is staggeringly impressive. High-quality support comes from Bryan Cranston and Christina Hendricks who both jettison their familiar personas with fresh performances all the while being cast in otherwise overlooked roles.
Nightcall. There is an undeniable retro vibe that lasts throughout the movie - neon opening titles and the 80's soundtrack (possibly the best soundtrack I've heard in film, but Guardians of the Galaxy comes close though) which is quite rare nowadays and should be celebrated. I occasionally irritate those around me by constantly referencing Drive! The soundtrack can be found here for some lazy Sunday listening.
Beautiful.Nicolas Winding Refn, before this, was previously known for Bronson. His film, The Neon Demon has imitated the style of Stanley Kubrick which, by no means, is a bad thing. With the ability to subtly trace the outskirts of Kubrick, Refn includes dissolves (hardly seen in anything other than Star Wars recently) and long takes complementing slow zooms polishing a fine-tuned film. Other than being flawlessly crafted, we are treated to the wonderful imagery of the Los Angeles underworld. The cinema world is so used to seeing the high-life aspects of LA that it never explores the lower parts which are just as pretty and actually more interesting.