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Drive
(2011)

Fortunately, a case of over-hype paying off (although I'm not sure it would quite make my favourite film of 2011, it's not far off). Visually, I was reminded of pre-digital Michael Mann, accentuated by the electronic soundtrack and beautified nighttime cityscapes. But there is a lyrical sensibility here that is largely absent from Mann’s work, and a visceral quality too (the extreme violence) that's also less foregrounded. I might also compare it to Running Scared, Wayne Kramer's underrated 2006 thriller, which takes an urban environment and uses it to tell a story that to some extent is a reworked Grimm's fairytale.

But the pleasure of Nicholas Winding Refn's film is that while it has elements that hark back to other films and eras (the aesthetic ones in particular), it feels fresh and distinct. The marriage of sound to the visuals is as impressive as TRON Legacy's (which comes to mind due to the retro-electronica here) but the emphasis is on a brooding atmosphere of tension. Many memorable scenes, but the one in the lift is a justly regarded as a highlight.

Ryan Gosling anchors the film as apparently effortlessly as you've come to expect from him, although perhaps more taciturn than usual (his silence in scenes speaks volumes, and emphasises his iconic qualities - even if those may be a reflection of sociopathy) . Albert Brooks' gangster is impressively against-type, while Carey Mulligan is enchanting in a fairly thankless role (but which she somehow works magic with). Strong supporting work from Oscar Isaac, Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston and Christina Hendricks.

*****

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