Movie Review – The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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OFFICIAL SILVER SCREENER REVIEW

– THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST –

IMDB Rating: 6.7 out of 10 (5,071 votes)

Director: Mira Nair

The poster for The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

The poster for The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

If you look up “define slow film” on Google, you will get a few examples. Had it been seen by more people and been given wider release, one of those films would be ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’. Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!, Amelia) has created here a film which holds it’s own head up, moving itself away from the most prevalent patriotic films, and really challenges the viewer to think hard about who is behind the face. Who are these so called “terrorists”? What do they want? Is it fair to assume all people who come from the Middle East hate America? Did they even want war in the first place? All of these questions, and many more, are raised by Nair’s thought-provoking and extremely intelligent post-9/11 drama.

We focus in on Changez (Riz Ahmed) – the main character in the film, and the man who’s perspective we’re seeing things from. We follow Changez as he works his way in and out of a complex relationship with Erica (Kate Hudson), as he gets a job with an evaluation firm known as Underwood Samson, as he is taken under the wing of his boss and mentor Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland), and as he unravels his own thoughts about the true United States of America.

The film starts off very slowly, with a scene showing the abduction of a professor at Lahore University by unknown assailants (this plays a very key role in the film all the way up until the very end). The first scene is probably in the vicinity of 10 or so minutes long, meaning it requires a great deal of patience and understanding to get through. But once you do get through it, the film expands like a flourishing flower. That’s one of the things I really loved about the film: it was such a daring, mysterious and gripping opening sequence, and it pulled so many different story elements into the spotlight, but by the end of the film it tied together every loose strand. Mira Nair and screenwriters William Wheeler & Rutvik Oza must be praised for this.

I had a Pakistani once.

I had a Pakistani once.

The funny thing is, though, is that once you get past the opening scene, and the film settles itself into a steady groove, you realise it’s a slow film anyway. Really, the opening scene isn’t much slower than the rest of the film. The film is written with in depth discussions, set up with a “story being told in flashbacks from a current-day interview” kind of style, and featuring very personal scenes which let us in to the mind of Riz and the people around him. This all takes time (2 hours and 10 minutes to be exact), but filmmaking is sometimes a careful and deliberate art, requiring attention to detail, and ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ is just one of those movies.

Mira Nair manages to squeeze some very convincing performances out of her actors, in particular Riz Ahmed and Kate Hudson, who are superb in their [very key] roles. Not only do they seem to have great chemistry on screen, but in their more personal, alone moments, they shine as bright as any other scene in the film. Ahmed has a lot to do here; at times he has to be upbeat and young, at other times he has to be vulnerable, at other times he has to be stern, and at other times he has to be the leader and the one in control. This is a massive workload for an actor known mostly for his performance in the 2010 comedy ‘Four Lions’ (which I hear is quite good), but Ahmed’s performance is much more mature and sophisticated than his age and experience would suggest.

The end sequence (a very long scene indeed) is just what the rest of the film deserved; it is smart, so smart in fact it verges on one of the best written climaxes all year; it is open ended, leaving room for the viewer to think about what Mira Nair was trying to get at; it is even a tad controversial; but it is, to my absolute pleasure, an ending that brings back elements from the very first few scenes of the film, which is something I just love when it’s done right. With ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’, Nair challenges us to create our own thoughts, emotions, and feelings about September 11 2001, and the days/weeks/months/years following it. How have we changed as people? Maybe what Nair was trying to say with this film was that the people of America were not the only victims of 9/11 – the flags, whom the forces responsible for 9/11 hide behind, are victims too.

MY RATING: 8.5 out of 10.

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Movie Review – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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OFFICIAL SILVER SCREENER REVIEW

– THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE –

IMDB Rating: 8.2 out of 10 (101,889 votes)

Director: Francis Lawrence

The poster for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The poster for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

It’s not often that a sequel reimagines, repeats, and maybe even surpasses the success of it’s predecessor. Possibly ‘Toy Story 2’, and ‘The Godfather Part II’ (to some perhaps, but for me it isn’t nearly as brilliant as ‘Part I’) are the best two examples. And that’s exactly the situation here with the second installment in the Hunger Games series, ‘Catching Fire’. It is a better film than the first in pretty much every way: the action set pieces are more impressive, the character development and focus on character psyche is more detailed, and the special effects are better. From what people were saying about this film, I had high expectations, and to my extreme satisfaction those expectations were passed with flying colours.

Having read the books – actually, having LOVED the books (I literally could not put the first book down) – I found this edition in the Hunger Games series as true an adaptation of the novel as humanly possible. At least, much more so than the first one. And I say ‘humanly possible’ because of course there are certain lengths a writer needs to go to in order to keep the material he’s writing for the screen fresh, entertaining, and unpredictable. A novel is a completely different medium to a film, because it can do different things than a film. It can describe even the deepest, darkest emotions by just writing them down, rather than having to sometimes rely on dialogue to express such things. That’s just one example and that’s why adapting a novel exactly as it was written in to a screenplay format, is near impossible, unless your text is superbly written to the point where it makes the perfect film (I’m again thinking of ‘The Godfather’.)

Thank goodness writers Simon Beaufoy (‘127 Hours’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’) and Michael Arndt (‘Toy Story 3’, ‘Oblivion’) have been given a brilliant text to work off. Suzanne Collins’ novels created a very strong, wise yet vulnerable female lead in Katniss Everdeen. She was such a great heroine and this was elevated thanks to the way Collins wrote in her emotions and feelings. One of the problems with the first film was that it really didn’t capture the essence of Katniss’ character, mainly her feelings, even though it had similar mood to the novel. But Beaufoy and Arndt nail it here, writing Katniss’ dialogue almost perfectly. In ‘Catching Fire’, the state in which she’s in, one of total confusion and unwanted responsibility, is exactly how I remember the books to portray her.

See, what I thought the first film did well was set everything up. It created the dystopian future of the districts and the completely over-the-top glam of the Capitol. The casting was also perfect; from Woody Harrelson being the Haymitch I imagined while reading, to Liam Hemsworth being just right for the role of Gale. So director Francis Lawrence and the screenwriters were extremely lucky to have the groundwork laid down for them.

But rather than the slightly tackier colour palette of the first film, Francis Lawrence gives us a darker vision, more blacks on white, more dead trees, more hollow and empty places, more dour scenery. This, among other things (namely the performances), is why this film works on a level higher than the first film did.

The girl on fire.

The girl on fire.

So, let’s get to those performances, shall we?

For starters, every single performance in this film is one of fantastic devotion to the character, as well as being totally enthralling. I fear using words like ‘amazing’ because they are all too generic, and describing characters like Stanley Tucci’s Caeser Flickerman as just “amazing” would be putting it lightly. No, no, that will not do. Stanley Tucci is absolutely fantastical as Flickerman, who is actually given a little depth himself later in the film. Tucci is having so much fun here that it’s hard not to laugh and smile when he is on screen.

Then we get Jennifer Lawrence, who is such a great young actress, that I’m sure by the time we get to Hunger Games film #4 (‘Mockingjay’ will reportedly be split into 2 films, which makes sense seeing as the book is a hot mess) we will be saying how she’s grown out of the role and will be winning Oscars if only she wasn’t doing Hunger Games movies. She’s so impressive here, so much more so than her first effort at Katniss. She explores the inner psyche of Katniss with her eyes, face and body language; she’s definitely matured as an actress.

Josh Hutcherson is kind of played down here, but I think that’s mainly so that they can put the focus on Katniss, which is a shame because he’s kind of wasted. When he is required, he’s as good as any on screen, tugging at our heart strings and being the strong man all at the same time. Woody Harrelson is also great, although one of his on screen counterparts Elizabeth Banks is sometimes dialling up the camp a little too much.

But without a doubt my favourite thing about this film is the portrayal of the dystopia, the total sense of confusion in the districts, and the role Snow plays in it all. President Snow was my favourite part of the books, and I don’t know if it’s perfect casting or what, but when I read the books I imagined it was Donald Sutherland the whole time. He’s so good at being so evil, and his chemistry with the flawless Philip Seymour Hoffman is outstanding. Francis Lawrence also chooses to show the districts in such a depressing way, with what I mentioned before (the scenery, the dead trees in the forest). It’s the finer details of it all that got me invested in the story, invested in the roles that everyone plays in “keeping the peace”, and the role of Katniss as a symbol of hope, even if it means holding three fingers in the air just to get beaten to death.

It’s hope that keeps these people alive, much like it’s hope that keeps Andy Dufresne alive and well in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. Hope plays such a key role in ‘Catching Fire’, and it’s so fitting that now we have a great second film, all we can do is hope that the last 2 films reproduce the wonderment that ‘Catching Fire’ does. Hope is really what will get diehards through the next twelve months, and what will get me through it too.

MY RATING: 8 out of 10.

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Movie Review – The Counselor

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OFFICIAL SILVER SCREENER REVIEW

– THE COUNSELOR –

IMDB Rating: 6 out of 10 (7,369 votes)

Director: Ridley Scott

The poster for The Counselor.

The poster for The Counselor.

I’d say ‘The Counselor’ is a dud, but that really would be putting it in terms too kind. ‘The Counselor’ is laughably poor in almost every department. If it weren’t for the persistent and honest performances of Brad Pitt and Penelope Cruz, ones which genuinely makes the other performances seem so much worse in comparison, I would give ‘The Counselor’ a Roger Ebert thumbs down.

But Pitt and Cruz are there, so instead, I will declare ‘The Counselor’ to be very, very, very bad.

Maybe the worst thing about ‘The Counselor’ is just it’s stupidity, it’s pretentiousness, it’s overblown and showy sense of meaning above all else. I can’t say for a fact that I know how different writing a screenplay is to writing a book, but judging by Cormac McCarthy’s latest effort, I would suggest to him that he should stick with novels – something he supposedly does very well (he wrote the novel ‘No Country For Old Men’, a book I am yet to read, which was then adapted into a very good Coen Brothers film). But McCarthy’s script here does not warrant the talent it attracted. Reading the differences from the first draft and the shooting draft, I can’t say the first draft seemed much better, but still, a writer must be responsible for his work unless he comes outright and renounces it. McCarthy is yet to do that for ‘The Counselor’, which surprises and intrigues me, because it truly is a pretty awful piece of work. The dialogue is petty, consistently turgid, pretentious, and so overly philosophising, you will struggle to see the meaning in it all. And even though some of it may be slightly accurate, it is nonetheless completely unrealistic. What woman says ‘Truth has no temperature’? Who in their right mind would utter that phrase?

And are the characters likeable? Are they people we enjoy watching for two hours? Are they real people at all? The answer to all of these questions is no. They are horrible people. All of them. There is one character, that of Laura (Penelope Cruz) who, upon the likely chance of death, would be missed by the audience out of likeability, but besides that, Cormac McCarthy & Ridley Scott give us the chance to observe the lives of some of the world’s worst people. It makes for some of the most dull, nonsensical and frustrating viewing you may ever witness. Malkina (Cameron Diaz) is written in the most misogynistic sense possible, Reiner (Javier Bardem) likes nothing more than having conversations that last way too long, and I still don’t know what the Counselor (Michael Fassbender) actually does for a living, and why he needs to enter the drug business. ‘The Counselor’s own need to have every second sentence be some deep expression of one’s own ability to philosophise doesn’t do itself any favours. I don’t want to talk about each character individually – the review would be 3000 words long – although I’m afraid I might have to. Because if you have a conscience and if you enjoy decent cinema, you will feel nothing for these putrid people.

Enough.

Enough.

See, Laura is at least likeable and innocent amidst this trainwreck of a plot/film/concept, and Brad Pitt’s performance as Westray is respectable, although his character is not. But the funny thing is, I didn’t even know Pitt’s character’s name until the last 10 minutes of the film. Maybe I wasn’t paying close attention. But that’s hardly my fault when I’m force-fed a film like this. And the whole thing about ‘The Counselor’ having a main character who remains nameless really speaks to the pompous, inflated conscience of the film. Why shouldn’t he have a name? Why does it seem incredibly forced every time someone calls him “Counselor” instead of a normal name? Perhaps McCarthy, and Scott for that matter, were trying to say something more. For the life of me I can’t figure out exactly what that is.

Are you getting the jist of things here? Everything in ‘The Counselor’ is just so stupid, and for no reason at all besides it’s own prioritising of everything meaning something.

Malkina is married to a man who owns two cheetahs (three counting Malkina), a Mansion, and two Ferraris. But she takes his money, yet seemingly has to steal more so that she can escape this life she has made for herself. This doesn’t make any sense. Actually, life is the wrong word to describe it. It’s much more of just a sequence of pointless events held together by alcohol, sex, money, and underworldly activities. This is the kind of life we’re made to observe. It’s depressing. It’s not interesting, it’s not enjoyable. It’s just a bummer.

There are moments in ‘The Counselor’ where you will just laugh, not out of admiration for a joke, but out of pity and utter contempt at the ridiculousness of every scene, every twist, every element. There’s a scene by a pool involving Malkina and Laura which is both confusing and unnecessary. There’s an over-complication of plot involving the drugs, and their whereabouts. There’s a less than admirable focus on sex which serves absolutely no purpose except to pump a little life into a film shot repeatedly in the head by its own makers. There’s violence shown only because it can. It’s that kind of film, though. It’s pretentious and stupid, bringing ideals with it that only cloud already idiotic dialogue.

‘The Counselor’ is dumb, but not in the way enjoyable dumb movies like ‘Pacific Rim’ are; it’s just plain dumb, with no guidance and no moral compass. It’s a shocking effort from talented people, and it’s the worst film of the year so far.

MY RATING: 1.5 out of 10.

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Movie Review – Parkland

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OFFICIAL SILVER SCREENER REVIEW

– PARKLAND –

IMDB Rating: 6 out of 10 (1,393 votes)

Director: Peter Landesman

The poster for Parkland.

The poster for Parkland.

I see the JFK Assasination as one of the darkest days in American history, and even perhaps world history for that matter. When the most important man in the world is taken down, it really does make you think about how safe we really are, and how totally insane some people really are. ‘Parkland’ is a movie much less concerned with the wider reaction of that day, instead worrying about the personal influence JFK’s death had on the people around him (and the killer), making it a little less corny and bringing it’s own telling of the tale to the forefront. I liked ‘Parkland’; not because it was revelatory and delivered an out-of-this-world conspiracy theory, but because it tapped into who these people around JFK and LHO really were, and why they love their country. I’m a fan of settled and open-eyed patriotism, and ‘Parkland’ isn’t pushy about it, which is a perfect fit for a dark topic such as this.

I’d find it very easy to believe that the director, Peter Landesman, had always had an interest in both filmmaking, and the JFK Assasination. I can find this easy to believe because that’s what it felt like to me: elements of cinema showcased around an interesting event that has already happened. ‘Parkland’ has that sense about it that you know it’s Landesman’s first shot at big filmmaking, so he’s essentially experimenting with what cinema can do. One thing he delivers really well is juxtaposition.

If you don’t know what juxtaposition is, let me give you the best example possible. In ‘The Godfather’, Michael Corleone is at a baptism, where he will officially become the child’s godfather. Michael is asked by the priest, “Do you renounce satan?” We then cut between Michael’s hired henchmen killing the rest of the New York crime families, and Michael’s admission that in fact he does renounce satan, and believes in god. I won’t explain much more; just watch it here.

The juxtaposition in ‘Parkland’ really kicks in during the last 10 minutes of the film. JFK has been killed, and Lee Harvey Oswald has also been shot. We follow a man destroying evidence of LHO being right under the FBI’s nose, then cut to Oswald being lowered into his grave, signifying how the evidence ‘dies with him’. Another example is when we see stock footage of JFK’s funeral, with Mrs. Kennedy saying her goodbyes, and also Mrs. Oswald saying her goodbyes. I liked how ‘Parkland’ wasn’t afraid to say what was on it’s mind, and make brave comparisons between two people in complete opposite situations.

The man with the cam.

The man with the cam.

One thing I also really did admire about ‘Parkland’ was how John Landesman shot it all. His collaboration with cinematographer Barry Ackroyd is sublime; Ackroyd gives us some of the more spectacular setting shots we’ve seen all year. But Landesman, who I’m 99% sure shot this all on handheld camera, gives it the hue to make it look similar to how we think it should. Like an Instagram filter, only better.

Landesman would have shot it all on handheld to mimic what one of the main characters was doing at the time of the assassination, and make us feel like what we’re watching is just one big home movie. It may make the weak of heart a little dizzy, but I liked it; it was a nice touch.

The cast is mainly pretty good. People seem to have a problem with Zac Efron doing anything except awful, awful movies (I thought Hairspray was pretty good and he’s a talented guy), and Efron does his bit here. The nurses and attendants around him are good, too. But the standouts are easily Paul Giamatti and Billy Bob Thornton. These two characters are written with such emotional depth, and conflicting emotions, which really rings true to how it may have been in  a time of distress like that. Giamatti does a great job playing the deer in the headlights, and we get the sense that Billy Bob Thornton’s character, leader of the Secret Service, knows that he’s not going to last long after this; it’s just in the way he talks.

‘Parkland’ isn’t a breakthrough political drama because it really doesn’t offer much heavily confronting opinion, besides that of comparing both families (Kennedys and Oswalds) so blatantly. There are problems here: early on, the stock footage and the freshly shot footage doesn’t seem even close to the same time frame, and sometimes the dialogue could get a little tacky (I’m speaking specifically of Mrs. Oswald’s introduction scene).

But at heart, ‘Parkland’ is a really decent drama about a topic I’ve always been a sucker for. Backed up by great cinematography, and a killer score from James Newton Howard, ‘Parkland’ really is worth a watch. In cinemas, I’m not so sure, but rent it, because it’s at least worth a go.

MY RATING: 7.5 out of 10.

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Game Review – Batman: Arkham Asylum & Batman: Arkham City

In celebration of the release of Batman: Arkham Origins, the new Batman: Arkham game, I decided to review the previous two Arkham games. Enjoy.

OFFICIAL SILVER SCREENER REVIEW

– BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM –

IGN Rating: 8.7 out of 10

Developed by: Rocksteady Studios

Published by: Eidos Interactive & Warner Bros. Entertainment

Totally not insane.

Totally not insane.

When Batman: Arkham Asylum first came out, it quickly became one of the most critically acclaimed video games in the last few years.

I only got around to playing it earlier this year, and I must say, it lives up to the hype. First impressions count, especially in a Batman game which means so much to fanatics like me, and my first impression of Arkham Asylum was one of pure wonder and respect as to how much detail, how much effort must have gone into making this game which has single handedly given Batman games one of the highest standards of any game series out there.

Man, that was a long sentence.

Arkham Asylum features some of the greatest detail I’ve seen in a game. It rivals the Grand Theft Auto series in terms of attention to the little things. Maps on the ground, texture of surfaces, building design. Only a few of the many things that Arkham Asylum boasts as truly first-class.

The gameplay gets a little repetitive, though. It seems like the whole ‘detective mode on the gargoyles’ thing got a little tiresome, towards the end of the game, at least. There’s only so many times you can hang an Arkham inmate from a gargoyle before you begin to want something different. And many of the Challenges have the same premace as this, too; purely gargoyle combat. The hand-to-hand combat is impeccably staged, though, and even on easier difficulties, it’s not exactly a walk in the park. Maybe that’s what I liked so much about the game: it really was a challenge.

Arkham Asylum boasts a killer script and plot. The Joker’s dialogue is impeccable; it stays so true to the character and some of the lines are the work of a mastermind in Paul Dini. The plot is one of the most intriguing Batman plots on any form of entertainment I’ve had the pleasure of indulging myself in.

But easily the best thing about Arkham Asylum is the unlockables, the riddles, and the teeth.

There are so many riddles to solve, so many teeth to destroy, and so many gadgets to upgrade. And you will undoubtedly spend hours trying to finish these off, even after you’ve finished Story Mode. I don’t know how they do it, but you feel totally obliged to finish it off. Not for you, but for Batman. After all, in a Batman suit, you can do anything. You’re the world’s greatest detective.

Arkham Asylum is an unforgettable gaming experience. It may just change how you feel about comics, about Batman, about gaming, because it’s so damn good. It may not be entirely replayable once you’ve unlocked all you can, finished all your Challenges, and solved all the riddles, but by god are you having a good time while it lasts.

MY RATING: 9 out of 10.

OFFICIAL SILVER SCREENER REVIEW

– BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY –

IGN Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Developed by: Rocksteady Studios

Published by: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

In the words of Jesse Pinkman: "Woah, yo."

In the words of Jesse Pinkman: “Woah, yo.”

And I thought the first one was good.

I’ll try to make this short and sweet, but there’s so much to like about Arkham City, I’m not sure how well I’ll fare.

Let’s start with the critiques:

Maybe it doesn’t have the level of replayability which some of the other great games do. Maybe.

Okay. Critiques over. Let’s get to the good stuff.

The script is just as good as Arkham Asylum’s. Maybe it’s better. Of course, it’s written by the same guy, Paul Dini, with help from Paul Crocker and Sefton Hill. Again, the plot is highly intriguing. It features the whole spectrum of Batman characters, more so than Arkham Asylum. I wish it had more to do with Scarecrow, though (he’s my favourite villain besides Joker). But I guess they were reaching for something different than what they did with the first game.

I love how the game makers incorporate The Riddler into this story. In Arkham Asylum, Edward Nigma is just as enigmatic as his name suggests, and we do not see him – only hear him. This time around, Nigma plays a huge role. It takes a little too long to go from one ‘hostage’ scene to another (when you get up to it, you’ll know what I’m on about), but his riddles are delightful, and that mystery is a never-ending worry.

The combat is really similar to Arkham Asylum (gargoyles, detective mode, etc.), but all the gadgets featured are upgraded versions of their originals, so that brings a level of freshness to the game, which is good. Going back to Arkham Asylum after you finish Arkham City, you’ll realise just how different the two games are. You may even appreciate one more than the other.

But Arkham City’s best feature is the world-building.

The Arkham City complex is so incredibly detailed. There are so many little gaps here and there, so many meticulous little spots to hide Riddler Trophies, so many places to go. The world of Arkham City is maybe the best piece of world building I’ve played in a game.

I don’t need to spell much more out for you; Arkham City is closer to perfection than any game I’ve played in a long time, perhaps even since 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved. I don’t get to play a whole heap of games, which makes the experience – and trust me, it really is an experience – of Arkham City so much sweeter.

MY RATING: 9.5 out of 10.

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My Audio stuff so far…

It would really mean a lot if you would be so kind as to check out some of my audio reviews. They aren’t my main interest – I only do them to keep myself occupied – but if you would have a listen, it would be greatly appreciated.

Feedback is also appreciated!

They are all listed here:

Gravity

Mud

Elysium

Only God Forgives

Pacific Rim

The Lone Ranger

Thanks,

Elroy.

Kubrick Award – Drive (2011)

The Kubrick Award – for Film Appreciation

Recipient #6

Drive (2011)

Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn

The poster for Drive.

The poster for Drive.

2 years ago, Nicolas Winding Refn brought us an extraordinary film. His vision, talent and potential was (to some) fully realised with 2011’s ‘Drive’. He brought the style and sensibility, patience and film sense to a much larger scale. The way Refn shoots L.A at night is something marvellous, bringing a spectacular life to the gloomy, dimly-lit streets. Maybe it’s the emphasis on rationing action to make it that much more effective, or maybe the stillness of Ryan Gosling’s performance, or maybe it’s, as a featured song says: “…something about you, it’s hard to explain,” but ‘Drive’ is, at least to me, the kind of film I’d watch on a bad day to make me remember what I truly love: the art of cinema.

The thing I perhaps love most about ‘Drive’ is the clashing of genres. The classic crime thriller meets the conventional Hollywood action movie, meets the in-depth character study meets the romance flick. The way the writer, Hossein Aimini, blends these genres so easily into one cohesive plot is fantastic. Some credit is due to Refn; when you split the film up into these 4 genres and then watch the film, you can see his purposeful attention to each category individually, making ‘Drive’ like a scrapbook or portfolio, a collection of each genre which just happens to all be in one film.

I’ll admit the trailer of the film did it no favours. It made it seem like the really stupid Hollywood action movie with thin plot and a possible shirtless Ryan Gosling making girls scream. ‘Drive’ is not that film. ‘Drive’ is so much more than that. I guess most negative reviews of this film can be put down to false expectations. When going into ‘Drive’, expect a sleek, smart, stylish thriller trying nearly everything it can possibly try to take it that one step further.

Nicolas Winding Refn’s directing style, one of long shots, equality through the lens, power from the protagonist, and the maximum involvement in the scene from the viewer, really speaks to me, both as an amateur filmmaker, and as a watcher of film. He, much like Stanley Kubrick, basically uses the space to his advantage. Instead of using Kubrick’s trademark symmetry, Refn’s power is through his focus on the guy we’re supposed to be rooting for. In this case, it’s Ryan Gosling’s character.

Which really poses the question: In ‘Drive’, is Ryan Gosling’s character, The Driver, the antagonist, protagonist, or both? That’s the most interesting question Refn poses with ‘Drive’.

Safety isn't guaranteed.

Safety isn’t guaranteed.

I can’t fully say I have a definite answer to the question, although my unconfirmed opinion is that The Driver is a symbol of the good man doing things that aren’t necessarily right, for a good cause. He’s actually, when you think about it, perfectly similar to Walter White. He does bad things for someone/something he believes worthy of all this trouble. And not only is he similar in his motivations and reasons, but The Driver also has his Heisenberg moments, including stomping a man’s skull in, or nearly beating a man with a hammer. On that note, did I mention how violent ‘Drive’ is?

It’s not excessive and it’s not absolutely horrible, but it’s there and it’s prevalent. ‘Drive’ brings us a very stylised sense of violence, and even though it’s stylised, it’s nonetheless brutal and confronting. There’s blood for sure, especially in one scene involving a motel shootout. It’s interesting how Refn decided to show the violence in some scenes so openly, yet in others, sort of hide it, protect us from it (a drowning in the ocean is shown from a fair distance, with no sound). But maybe Refn is only showing us what he really thinks we should see – just how bad things are getting for The Driver.

The whole 80’s feel of ‘Drive’ is probably my favourite obvious style and theme choice for a film. I love the retro music, the synths, the beautifully clean shooting of night-time L.A., the kickass car which The Driver speeds around in, even the awesome pink font. It all feels a bit like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, in the underworldy, seedy sense, all playing out in a city very much alive.

Ryan Gosling is unforgettable as The Driver, and even though it’s a simple performance, it’s so beautifully executed. Refn directs him like a ticking time-bomb, which is essentially what he is. He’s careful not to set Gosling off too early, but then once the going gets hot, he lets Gosling let rip. It’s terrifyingly enjoyable to watch, and he’s so charismatic. He doesn’t need to do any more than give a simple look on his face to make us intimidated – of course, that’s paired with the way Refn shoots him (and the amazing Albert Brooks, too), with powerful angles and cool glances.

Not only is ‘Drive’ one of the best of the last decade, it’s one of my all time favourites because it’s such an enthralling experience for even the amateur film afficionado. I took way too long to get around to this film, and I urge you to get around to it right away, or I will be at your home tonight with a hammer. It’s not gonna be nice.

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