Posted on 9/18/11 12:10 PM
If you've seen director Nicolas Winding Refn's previous work (VALHALLA RISING), you'll quickly learn that he's not at all concerned with dialogue, especially in his protagonist. (Mads Mikelson's character inhabits almost every frame in VALHALLA, yet doesn't speak a single word).
The same almost rings true here in Ryan Gosling's quiet, methodical performance. Every word his character does speak, not a single syllable is wasted. The one word that best describes this film (and is being most used) is 'nuanced'. Too right.
But Gosling, while leading the pack, is not the only light in Windng Refn's firmament; other performances sparkle. Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, and Bryan ('Breaking Bad') Cranston turn in solid performances as well. Why, even Ron Perlman is fantastic, a rarity for the B-movie actor whose previous work is usually caked underneath weaponry or prosthetics.
But just as potent a character in the film is undeniably the music! The balance of the score and the Psychedelic Furs-inspired tunes set against the streets of L.A. is surprisingly very effective. (You might, as I will, be looking for the soundtrack on iTunes very soon!)
Gosling's character, nameless, and anonymous, is as mysterious as Eastwood in a Sergio Leone western. A stunt driver by day, he befriends and falls for his neighbour Irene (Mulligan) and then is incidentally drawn into the criminal world that her estranged husband formerly belonged to.
Gosling's 'driver' is onionesque, and as the film continues, we learn, as Mulligan's Irene does--startlingly, more and more about his character. Gosling's character reminded me in more ways than one of another Eastwood character, though without the ethereal qualities, his 'Preacher' in PALE RIDER.
The film is wonderfully shot, excellently scored, brilliantly acted, and is superbly directed. It's a heist movie gone wrong, so yes it isn't a genre unto itself, but it might have just reinvented it. On that front, don't expect it to fit into your idea of a traditional heist movie...