Monthly Archives: December 2011

Drive

Drive was hands down one of my favourite movies of 2011. The film has excellent pacing and is beautifully shot. Aesthetically, the film felt like a strange mix of an 80’s crime drama (helped along by the pulsating electro-pop soundtrack) and minimalist European cinema. It is a strange collision that works quite well.
The plot is simple. A quiet seemingly nameless young man, the Driver, (played by Ryan Gosling) works as a mechanic and stunt driver by day, and lends his services to criminals as a get-away driver by night. He meets and forms a bond with his neighbours, a young woman named Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her son Benecio (Kaden Leos). He comes to love them and resolves to be their protector. When Irene’s husband, Standard (Oscar Issac), is released from jail, it starts a series of events which culminate into a brutally violent end.
Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan are fantastic. Neither character says very much, communication radiates out from their eyes and body language. Muted as they both may be, their physicality, mixed with the few lines they do speak, go a long way. The camera work and lighting also assist the audiences reading of scenes by amplifying the feelings the actors are working towards by introducing a range of temperature to the film. Scenes literally have a way of feeling hot or cold in ways that are clearly meant to assist in our collective reading of what takes place. When Gosling is alone or working on a heist, many of these scenes feel cold, metallic and shot in cold grey tones with hardly any colour. When there is colour present, such as at a night club scene, it seems harsh. His is a world of cool calculation and machinary. When the Driver is with Irene, the feeling of the film changes, becoming warm and comforting. We take a ride on the Driver’s emotions. Warms tones are present as he drives with Irene at night, sits in the dim light of her apartment and visits a hidden creek with her and her son. We feel the love and companionship between these characters. And still there are other scenes, such as the beautiful and brutal elevator scene, where we shift from warm to cold, love to malice.
This film is not for everyone. The entire first two thirds of the movie unfold in a slow and meticulous manner, serving as a long build up to an explosively violent end, which left me both shocked and exhilarated. While not for the faint of heart, or those lacking in patience, Drive is one of the best mainstream films released this year, and well worth the ride.

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50/50

50/50 is an emotional and occassionally funny story that examines a young man coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis. This is a tale everyone can relate to on some level, as I doubt there are not many people who have not been affected by this disease in some meaningful way. The story introduces us to Adam, a bright and driven employee of NPR in Seattle, who, early in the film is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer with a frightening 50% survival rate. We watch as Adam endures emotionally confusing times and shows difficulty accepting his disease, after all, how could this happen to someone like him “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink…I recycle!” he exclaims dismayed. The story is based on the experiences of screenwriter Will Reiser, who was encouraged by his friend, Seth Rogan, to write the script after enduring cancer in his early 20’s. Seth Rogan, who co-stars in the film, essentially plays himself (he helped support Reiser through his illness), and is at the top of his game as Kyle, Adam’s supportive yet exasperating best friend. Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns in yet another great performance as Adam, bringing emotional clarity to the role. It’s honestly impossible for me not to fall in love with Gordon-Levitt in each of his films, and his performance sweeps me off my feet again. We also see strong supporting roles turned in by Angelica Huston, who plays Adam’s over-protective, yet emotionally tough mother, and Anna Kendrick, as Adam’s therapist.

Reiser’s screenplay is excellent for the majority of the film, and walks the fine line between hope and despair. While we see Adam going through difficult moments, the film never digs too deep into the physical horrors of the disease and treatment. Instead it focuses on Adam’s mental state and his relationships with his friends and family. Although there are many engaging personal confrontations in the film, Adam’s interactions with his less than loyal girlfriend (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) feel a little too rushed. The issues involved on each side for this couple are undoubtedly complex and I felt as though their scenes were brushed aside. While the audience sides with Adam, we lose much of Rachel’s perspective, although there is a fleeting attempt to convey it. While not defending her characters actions, it would have served the story well to gain a perspective on the stress debilitating sicknesses can have not only on those diagnosed, but others in their supportive network.

Despite a few drawbacks, this is an excellent film, with very strong performances and superb writing. I highly recommend 🙂

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