Drive is one of the most anticipated films of the year, and rightly so. It’s an atmospheric tour de force from Danish cult director Nicolas Winding Refn and starring a stoic, introspective Ryan Gosling who says as much through his eyes as he does his mouth.

It’s a film that hits all the right notes while defying all expectations. The story is deceptively simple as it follows the unnamed protagonist (Ryan Gosling), a stunt driver by day and getaway driver by night. In between these part-time gigs he also works at an L.A. autobody shop owned by his boss and cohort Shannon (Bryan Cranston).

Soon he crosses paths with neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), beginning a slow infatuation on both ends. However, when Irene’s husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) is released from prison, he’s soon enlisting the Driver’s help to escape from his past. As he should expect, the Driver is soon in over his head when all he wanted to do was protect Irene and her son Benicio.

Involved with the fall out of Standard’s crime is Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks), a recent business partner of Shannon and the Driver. But this time, he’s on the other side of the table. Whereas Gosling is subtle in his action, Brooks is abrasive. He has enough brains to be compassionate and sympathetic, something his usual business partner Nino (Ron Perlman), who’s directly involved with the recent mishap, is incapable of. But he still has an edge that you wouldn’t want to cross.

One of the film’s biggest strengths is it’s casting from the obvious Gosling and the comeback of Albert Brooks as a villain, to the sleazy Bryan Cranston and the sublime Carey Mulligan. It may not be surprising given the talent involved, but this is Nicolas Winding Refn’s first Hollywood film in nearly a decade following the disastrous (but underrated) Fear X, which caused him to go bankrupt and return to Denmark. There he made two sequels to his critically acclaimed Pusher, honestly admitting that he made them for the money. But when they ended up surpassing their predecessor, it was clear that his career was far from over.

Finally crossing the Atlantic once again, it seems that Refn may be here to stay. Drive is not only one of Refn’s best films, but one of the best films of the year.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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