Directed by Nicolas Refn, this fine tale revolves around a mysterious Hollywood stunt driver. This driver has extreme talent. He works with a mechanic who hired him on the spot for this. After meeting a woman, who is his neighbor, he finds hims getting involved in some trouble.
Now when before I watched, when I read the title I thought of action. You know the typical, clichéd, car chase filled, fast and furious type, popcorn flick. This is not that film. This film blew my socks of. Literally they have escaped and have not found them sense. Besides this catastrophe, the movie is great, and lets talk about why.
The film starts out with a scene that I assumed the audience expected to see. A thrilling action scene. It is set up tremendously, to show the drivers talents and set up his character. He’s a very systematic guy. The camera is set on the driver staring out a tall window, staring at the reflection of himself. He is all about the details and so is the film. Some may argue that the film isn’t well done, because it feels a bit dry. I admit that it is a slow burn but it is for a purpose. The director wanted the audience to feel the tension, and feel the characters emotional state, and to notice all of the details. In this scene we see many details. We see the driver has a system, where he stays 5 minutes and any over or under and he isn’t responsible. He says no guns. The camera pans over to a game being played which is a important variable for the upcoming scene. He pays close attention to that.
The scene is executed perfectly. The lighting and the retro soundtrack. It immerses you in this world, of the driver. The camera is always following him. Even in this scene, the camera stays in the car, the entire time. The details come back. He listens the whole time to the basketball game on the radio and keeps a close eye on his watch. He is mechanical with his movements. He executes the plan perfectly, timing the escape, with the swarm of the fans exiting the game.
When the driver meets this girl next door, he starts to soften up a bit. You can see it through the smirk and the passionate stares. What I love about this script is that it gave Ryan Gosling the leeway to act. He could progress the narrative through his facial expressions. When he meets this family, of the girl next door and her son, they become something he invests in. His robotic mannerisms, start to become more emotionally motivated. He becomes conflicted.
Once scene, that introduces this conflicting matter is where he is sitting in the apartment of the girl, watching tv, with her son by his side. He asks the boy if the shark is the “bad guy?” He confirms that he is a bad guy. The boy says “just look at him.” The driver lets that sink in deep. He is a shark. He wonders if he can change that. He tries to change this.
When the girl’s husband is released from prison, he celebrates in her apartment. When the driver, working on a piece of his car, hears the blaring music, he walks out. He meets all three of them in the hallway. Oscar Issac does an awesome job with his performance. He has to play a guy who is hiding something, yet reaching for something to hold on to. The confrontation is a little tense. You can tell the husband is a little hesitant about trusting the driver. The driver gives a quick smirk towards his new light in his life and walks away. You can see that his wheels are turning. He is morphing into something new.
There is so many great characters in this movie, and so many good performances. Albert Brooks even shaved his eyebrows off, to look more menacing. So much dedication was put into these characters. We can see more tension build when, Bryan Cranston’s character, the mechanic, wants to buy a stock car for use from Brooks’ character. He is unwilling to buy into it unless he sees the driver.
The next scene, we get a little more of a taste of the driver’s talents. The conversation is so well done, very well summarizing these two characters. Brooks reaches for a handshake, while Ryan Gosling stares. He states that his hands are a little dirty. Brooks says, that his are too. That scene gave me chills. The following scenes greatly develop the arch of the driver and the colliding connections within the narrative.
You see the husband of the girl next door, has a debt that he needed to pay in prison but couldn’t. The people who are asking for the money are getting a little greedy. They want more and more with every moment. The scene where the husband gets beaten up greatly presents the weak foundation, for which he held strong to. He was reaching for something and couldn’t find anything. I love the shot of him lying against the concrete wall, beaten senseless, and when Ryan Gosling walks by you can see this rush of emotion run over him. He feels he has fallen overboard and when he sees him kneel down to his son, he feels jealous of the man he should be for him. The next scene shows how the husband has given up. He is so weak and out of answers that he has to rely on the man, he is so untrustworthy of. He explains to him of his situation and they make a plan. The connection between the boy and the driver builds. I think through the child he can see the spirit, he wished he had. I also think it is the same for the child. The driver sees an open spirit through his eyes and a confident soul that resides within him. He sees a good person going through a mess. The boy sees a hero but he doesn’t see behind the curtains.
For the sake of time, lets fast forward. The driver has gone through the chaotic mess. The plan failed. This might be the first time the driver is shocked. He wasn’t prepared for this and this bothers him. He releases the aggression on the woman who was with him during the heist. He is becoming an angry spirit that roams through life, yet it is contrasted with the yearning for a good spirit. There is a scene where the camera shows him set against a wall. He has just experienced something brutal. The woman was just shot and he just escaped death. He sets on the wall, waiting for the man to appear but during this moment I think he reflected on his life. He probably thought of the chaos he has put himself in to. Is he still just a shark? A simple predator, out for evil. He believes he has good motivations, that he is doing this for justice but is he? The passionate conflicting motives enrages him again and he takes the anger out on the murderer. Another scene is shown later in the film in a elevator that shows this same passion. The narrative presents both sides of his life. The one of harmony and the one of chaos. He gives a passionate kiss to the one he so desperately wants in his life, and so desperately needs. Then he passionately kills the man. Stripping the life out of him.
This character is so interesting. The retro music plays. He drives through the night sky. His eyes water and his mind wanders. He doesn’t know where to go. For the first time in his life, he doesn’t know what hit him. He shows aggression to the mechanic, something that he has never shown towards him. More and more people are seeing the driver morph before there eyes. The driver is desperate for answers. The driver gets his justice in the end and kills off the “bad guy.”
He puts on a facade. He puts on a hollywood mask to hide himself from the actions he wishes to pursue. The final scene. The final death by the predator is by an ocean. Isn’t that awesome. The shark, kills someone in the ocean. But when he takes off that mask, he probably feels he is changed. He can go back to the life of languor. He can be who he wants to be now. The deed is done. The shark was left out in the ocean. Justice is served.
Great performances, lighting, music, editing, and narrative. This is a must see. If I would have seen this in 2011, this would’ve been my favorite of the year.