Drive is a muscle car of a movie drenched in sweat and adrenalin. With Ryan Gosling behind the wheel the film makes sharp turns that would leave other actors spinning out of control. What starts as a simple story of a mechanic who moonlights as a Hollywood stunt driver, and also as a wheelman on robberies, slowly escalates into a blood stained fable. Gosling plays the ultimate cool dude who rarely if at all shows emotion, even while his world comes to a grinding halt.

Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn soaks the scenes with atmosphere and foreboding. Yes, Drive is an action thriller of sorts but the pacing is masterful, slow and delicate. Then the screen explodes with deadly violence or a breathless car chase. The music by Cliff Martinez slowly percolates and imbues scenes with moodiness reminiscent of David Lynch films. In fact there are sequences where Refn’s methodical movement of the story into moments of surrealism made me think it was a Lynch sequel to Mulholland Dr.

Gosling makes friends with his next-door neighbor and her young son (Carey Mulligan). Mulligan’s husband has just been released from prison and Gosling agrees to be his driver for an ill-timed heist. Albert Brooks plays a mobster who speaks softly and carries a big grudge. Although the supporting turns are all well cast its Gosling at the center of the frame that demands your attention. His brooding yet silent character walks calmly through the valley of death that is the underbelly of Los Angeles.

— Michael Bergeron