Noir or Neo-Noir, what’s the big difference? Well, a lot more than just color or black and white photography. But the key element of a mysterious, yet sympathetic man caught up in events beyond his control is an essential factor in either case. In Ryan Gosling’s new film, Drive the young actor fulfills the personification of this description and demonstrates a more mature, and nuanced approach to his craft as he takes on his most challenging role to date. I don’t think it’s too much to say that Gosling in Drive can be compared favorably to Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past and Richard Gere in American Gigolo. In short, Gosling is Noir’s latest troubled hero.
I saw Drive at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival, and I was very impressed. Not only does the film offer an amazing cast in roles as they have never been seen, but it offers a modern spin on a dated genre. I’m not talking about the heist film, but the Noir, or more specifically, the Neo-Noir. Although the previews would have you believe otherwise, the reality is that anyone going into Drive expecting an action packed heist film full of car chases and violence will be woefully disappointed.
Drive does have some pretty exceptional moments of action, and there are scenes of sudden and shocking violence (Christina Hendricks’ bathroom brawl will evoke memories of Patricia Arquette in True Romance). However, the thrust of the film is placed upon Gosling’s relationship with a married young mother and his honorable desire to keep her safe. It is this story full of sexual tension, palpable angst, and unfulfilled desires (physical and otherwise) that you should expect to see when the lights go down. Then your expectations will be satisfied rather than short changed, and you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the bonus of surprise twists (of which there are many) regardless of the level of violence.
The exceptional cast includes Carey Mulligan (An Education, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) as the woman of interest. Her demure, yet intense performance of an earnestly conflicted woman is overshadowed only by the powerhouse portrayals provided by the rest of the ensemble. Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle, Breaking Bad) offers a unique spin on a sidekick who acts as Goslings connection between the life of a stunt driver and the life of a getaway man. Yet even more surprising is comedian Albert Brooks (Modern Romance, Defending Your Life) playing a vicious crime boss bent on retrieving some stolen money and flexing his authority in the process. Brooks’ Bernie Rose is nothing like anything you’ve ever seen him do before, and undoubtedly there will be plenty of Oscar buzz around his bravado performance. The Academy should take notice and give Brooks a well-deserved nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
The film as a whole lives up to the expectations of a modern, or Neo-Noir due in large part to a well-executed story (based on a book by James Sallis) helmed by a bright young voice, (director Nicolas Winding Refn) and Goslings’ pitch perfect performance. I would have never thought that a blonde, blue-eyed man could have pulled it off, but having seen the film I’m definitely a believer. Gosling’s Mitchum-esque mystique combined with his Gere like sexuality ensures him a well-earned place among the memorable men of Noir, neo or otherwise.
To listen to a roundtable discussion with Ryan Gosling just follow this link to the www.dawsbrothers.com/ and scroll down to the bottom of the Drive article. The interview between Gosling and eight others including myself was recorded September 7th at the Four Seasons Hotel. Gosling discusses his latest film and gives a glimpse into what’s coming up next in his busy career.