This a film that was recommended to me by a film critic I enjoy called Your Movie Sucks. This guy and I don’t have exactly the same taste in movies, but I have enjoyed several of his recommendations. This was one of them. A lot of the reviews I saw got on this movie for false advertising. I see that. This was a movie that has a title and was advertised like it is a big blockbuster action film. Instead, this is a very smart crime thriller that has one of the most interesting protagonists I’ve ever seen. But for real, if you are expecting a lot of action don’t. This is a very slow and quiet film. One that will keep you on your toes from start to finish.
The story follows a nameless protagonist, played by Ryan Gosling. He daylights as a mechanic and sometimes stunt driver. Nightly his boss, played by Bryan Cranston, helps him work as a getaway driver. The driver is exceptionally good at what he does and life isn’t especially complicated for him. However, when him and his neighbor start getting close, and her husband comes home from prison, the driver finds things getting very complicated, very quickly. Thus begins a very tense battle where all sides are put into a position they didn’t want, with nobody knowing how the story will end.
This is one of those rare movies that comes along and totally surprises you. As I said, this is a quiet movie. A couple of scenes drag, but they’re allowed to drag. Once you get past the premise that sets itself up like an action movie, you become more accepting of how it is. I haven’t seen a crime thriller this engrossing in a long time.
The acting in this film is at the top of its class. Gosling brings an amazing performance as the Driver. His character is completely enigmatic. You have no idea where he came from. According to his boss, Shannon he just appeared one day. Part of what makes this character so interesting is how his emotions are so reserved. When something actually breaks through his malaise, you perk up, wondering what his senses picked up. Ryan Gosling is one of those actors who you see in something great, then forget about until the next thing he’s in that’s also great. It’s kind of mystifying that way.
The rest of the cast is excellent as well. Bryan Cranston plays the boss, Shannon. His character is a very likeable mechanic. He has been blessed with extraordinarily bad luck, but tries to make money however he can. He’s a little mixed up with the wrong people, like a man played by Albert Brooks. There are so many actors in this movie that you just don’t imagine giving performances like they do in this movie, and it is amazing to see. Ron Perlman is also in there, and he is good, as usual. It kind of bums me out how he is probably never going to get the respect he rightly deserves, after his film career ends. He’s an old guy. It’s coming. Bum deal.
The cinematography in this film is very nice. The way they linger on certain shots gives it a kind of cold emptiness. There’s also a lot of lateral panning shots that give it a cruel kind of taste. Then there is the lack of personal identity, like how they show the design on the back of the Driver’s jacket but not his face.
The other thing to notice in this movie is the music. It doesn’t play especially much. There isn’t an actual score for this film. It’s all songs that play. From style to when they play it, it seems to have no rhyme or reason. It’s like in Cowboy Bebop. Each song that plays is a style all its own, and you never think that they would work in that situation. But each one does.
The thing that gets me most about this movie is how engaging it is. On the one hand, this is a concept that’s been done a thousand times. A guy who does criminal work and has a simple life gets mixed up with a lady and then things fall apart. This movie does things differently. The differences are subtle. Each time you think you know where the story is going to go, it surprises you. Sure, it’s not huge surprises. You can kinda see where it’s all going to go before it gets there. But the little touches go a long way to make this film so much better. That said, you can see how this film is going to end.
For me, I categorize this movie in with films like Layer Cake and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. It’s a quiet film about unlikely heroes who find themselves in way over their heads. All three of the main characters have a past that is relatively unknown, with the mystery keeping you invested long enough to know how it turns out. And right to the bittersweet ending, this film did not disappoint. If you like a good crime thriller, this is one to check out.
8 out of 10