Ryan Gosling is Driver, a movie stunt driver/grease monkey by day and get-a-way wheelman by night. Befriending his neighbours Irene (Carey Mulligan) and young son Benicio (Kaden Leos) he makes a deal to drive get-a-way for some criminals to square a debt Irene’s husband ran up and safeguard the mother and child. When the deal goes bad he unwittingly becomes involved in a treacherous situation.
Metro World News Hollywood Correspondent Ned Ehrbar sits in for Mark Breslin this week.
Richard: Ned, Gosling isn’t the easy charmer of Crazy, Stupid, Love, he plays Driver like a coiled spring. There hasn’t been a leading man this close-mouthed since Rudolph Valentino was the king of the silent screen. He’s a man of very few words, but his silence hints at an active inner life and his actions certainly speak to having a past. It’s a brave and strange performance, either emotionally shut down, or simply cool-as-a-cucumber, take your pick.
Ned: Definitely the strong silent type. But I guess if your best friend is a scheming, motor-mouthed deadbeat like Shannon (Bryan Cranston), you learn to keep your mouth shut. The expression Gosling has on his face most of the time seems just as likely to turn in to a smirk or have him burst into tears, making him fascinatingly impossible to read.
But he certainly knows when to put his foot down, so to speak. As electrifying as Gosling’s toothpick-chewing Driver is, the performance that impressed me the most was Albert Brooks as former movie producer and current mob boss Bernie Rose. I never thought the sight of the star of Lost in America would fill me with dread, but there you go.
RC: Albert Brooks walks away with the movie in his blood stained hands. Gosling, Mulligan and Bryan Cranston are all great, but the character you remember is the ex-movie producer-turned-gangster Rose. He delivers what may be the best bad guy line of the year. When Gosling’s character refuses to shake his hand because his hands are dirty from working Rose says, “So are mine.” Great stuff.
NE: The only real criticism I’d make of Brooks is his performance makes Ron Perlman’s character, Rose’s less well-spoken partner Nino, stand out for being so conventional. But that’s really about the only complaint I can put against the film. Every shot is artfully composed, and the tension-filled sequences of Gosling waiting for his getaway driving gigs to begin will make you reconsider how long you can hold your breath. And the music — I’ve been listening to the soundtrack every day since it was released last week.
RC: It’s funny that a movie that values silence so much — there are l-o-n-g pauses in the dialogue — has such a great soundtrack, but there you go, just another surprising thing about an unconventional but intriguing movie.