Star rating – 8/10
A lot has been said about the level of seemingly gratuitous violence in this new film by director Nicolas Winding Refn. But there are two other facts about this movie that you can’t deny. Firstly, the cinematography is to die for – beautiful sleek shots of Los Angeles at night. And perfectly framed takes of the other indisputable element to the film - the wonderful, quiet, unassuming, too cool for school Ryan Gosling.
Gosling plays a guy who is a skilled stunt driver for Hollywood’s finest by day, and by night a getaway driver for heists. And his handbrake turns are good enough to rival Steve McQueen. The driving sequences are thrilling, even if his rule of giving his passengers five minutes – no more no less – to do their criminal deeds, then he is out of there, ready or not. And he wears great leather driving gloves and a silver silk jacket with an orange scorpion emblazoned across the back that it sure to be being copied and in a high street near you very soon.
He happens to fall in love in a very sweet kind of way with his neighbour, single mom Irene, played with superb sensitivity by Carey Mulligan. But her husband is in prison and a bad lot, so it was never going to be a very wise move. Neither Gosling nor Mulligan’s characters are really fleshed out – it’s just not that sort of story. Instead we go with them on a hellish journey as Gosling tries to help her recently released husband protect his family by doing one last job. And you can guess the rest.
I admit it is a bit problematic that the Driver goes from a soft spoken, sensitive soul who loves playing with Irene’s young son, and who is too gentlemanly to even attempt to make a move on her; to a violent thug, but Winding Refn views his art in terms of two things - violence and sex. He wants us to feel extremes in this piece, and we certainly do. And yes it is very violent - shockingly violent. But it is also a beautiful piece of film making, with a star in the shape of Gosling that you can watch all day long.