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Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan in “Drive” – TIFF 2011

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: A number of actors attending this year’s Toronto International Film Festival have two films to promote. George Clooney has his own “The Ides of March,” as well as Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants.” Michael Fassbender has “A Dangerous Method” for David Cronenberg and Steve McQueen’s “Shame.”

And then there’s Ryan Gosling, who not only appears in Clooney’s “Ides,” but also headlines Nicolas Winding Refn’s stylish modern noir, “Drive.”

I first heard about “Drive” at TIFF last year, when co-star Carey Mulligan, while doing interviews for “Never Let Me Go,” mentioned she’d just signed on for this exciting new project. She was right. I’ll explain why below as I preview Refn’s “Drive,” which plays TIFF 2011.

Previous TIFF previews can be found by visiting our bustling Awards Alley.


The Plot: Ryan Gosling plays a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights at night as a wheel man for hire. He and his partner (Bryan Cranston) have plans to go straight. But when Gosling’s nameless character takes an interest in the pretty young mom (Carey Mulligan) in his apartment building, worlds collide and threaten to unravel the tight-knit existence this isolated “hero” has created for himself.

The Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks

The Director: Nicolas Winding Refn (“Bronson”)

The Scoop: “Drive” has been burning up the festival circuit this year, catching audience’s off guard in Cannes before playing to packed houses (and building stronger buzz) at the Los Angeles Film Festival. There’s a reason for this. Refn’s film is pretty damn terrific. Comparison made to early Martin Scorsese or Michael Mann are justified. This is a stylish, gritty and, at times, alarmingly violent ride through the seedy underbelly of L.A. But Refn’s gift lies in creating tension with his deliberate pacing and expert camera placement. The soundtrack, which harkens back to 1980s crime thrillers, suits the mood like a leather driving glove, and the cast is solid from top to bottom. “Drive” plays TIFF a few weeks ahead of its Sept. 16 release, but those who get to see it even a few days early are considered lucky.

Awards Potential: As far as I’m concerned, Albert Brooks is a shoe-in for a Best Supporting Actor nomination so long as FilmDistrict gives him even the slightest awards push. As L.A. gangster Bernie Rose, Brooks is so incredibly engrossing in every single scene. He’s like a flashlight clicked on in a pitch-dark room. You can’t help but stare. Brooks rises to the top of a stellar ensemble, and that’s saying something. As much as I loved the rest of the film, I’m not sure it plays to the Academy’s tastes, though. It’s a violent genre film, but one made with such spectacular skill that the Academy should recognize Refn’s craft with multiple technical nominations come Oscar time.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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