Here Are The 2012 Critics’ Choice Movie Award Nominees


Earlier today, the Broadcast Film Critics Association announced their nominations for the 17th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards.  The BFCA is the largest of the so-called “major” critics’ groups (and, interestingly enough, it’s also the newest and the least prestigious) and it has a fairly good track record of predicting the actual Oscar nominations.  The awards themselves will be handed out on January 12th, 2012 in a self-important, kinda seedy ceremony that will be broadcast on VH-1.   

BEST PICTURE
The Artist
The Descendants
Drive
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse

BEST ACTOR
George Clooney – The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Michael Fassbender – Shame
Ryan Gosling – Drive
Brad Pitt – Moneyball

BEST ACTRESS
Viola Davis – The Help
Elizabeth Olsen – Martha Marcy May Marlene
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Charlize Theron – Young Adult
Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks – Drive
Nick Nolte – Warrior
Patton Oswalt – Young Adult
Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Sir Andrew Serkis – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Berenice Bejo – The Artist
Jessica Chastain – The Help
Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids
Carey Mulligan – Shame
Octavia Spencer – The Help
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Asa Butterfield – Hugo
Elle Fanning – Super 8
Thomas Horn – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Ezra Miller – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Saoirse Ronan – Hanna
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
The Artist
Bridesmaids
The Descendants
The Help
The Ides of March

BEST DIRECTOR
Stephen Daldry – Extreme Loud & Incredibly Close
Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
Alexander Payne – The Descendants
Nicolas Winding Refn – Drive
Martin Scorsese – Hugo
Steven Spielberg – War Horse

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius
50/50 – Will Reiser
Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen
Win Win – Screenplay by Tom McCarthy, Story by Tom McCarthy & Joe Tiboni
Young Adult – Diablo Cody

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Descendants – Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Eric Roth
The Help – Tate Taylor
Hugo – John Logan
Moneyball – Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Story by Stan Chervin

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Artist – Guillaume Schiffman
Drive – Newton Thomas Sigel
Hugo – Robert Richardson
Tree of Life – Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse – Janusz Kaminski

BEST ART DIRECTION
The Artist – Production Designer: Laurence Bennett, Art Director: Gregory S. Hooper
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Production Designer: Stuart Craig, Set Decorator: Stephenie McMillan
Hugo – Production Designer: Dante Ferretti, Set Decorator: Francesca Lo Schiavo
The Tree of Life – Production Designer: Jack Fisk, Art Director: David Crank
War Horse – Production Designer: Rick Carter, Set Decorator: Lee Sandales

BEST EDITING
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius and Anne-Sophie Bion
Drive – Matthew Newman
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo – Thelma Schoonmaker
War Horse – Michael Kahn

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Artist – Mark Bridges
The Help – Sharen Davis
Hugo – Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre – Michael O’Connor
My Week With Marilyn – Jill Taylor

BEST MAKEUP
Albert Nobbs
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Iron Lady
J. Edgar
My Week With Marilyn

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8
The Tree of Life

BEST SOUND
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Super 8
The Tree of Life
War Horse

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango

BEST ACTION MOVIE
Drive
Fast Five
Hanna
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8

BEST COMEDY
Bridesmaids
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Horrible Bosses
Midnight in Paris
The Muppets

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
In Darkness
Le Havre
A Separation
The Skin I Live In
Where Do We Go Now

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Buck
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Page One: Inside the New York Times
Project Nim
Undefeated

BEST SONG
“Hello Hello” – performed by Elton John and Lady Gaga/written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin – Gnomeo & Juliet
“Life’s a Happy Song” – performed by Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Walter/written by Bret McKenzie – The Muppets
“The Living Proof” – performed by Mary J. Blige/written by Mary J. Blige, Thomas Newman and Harvey Mason, Jr. – The Help
“Man or Muppet” – performed by Jason Segel and Walter/written by Bret McKenzie – The Muppets
“Pictures in My Head” – performed by Kermit and the Muppets/written by Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis and Chen Neeman – The Muppets

BEST SCORE
The Artist – Ludovic Bource
Drive – Cliff Martinez
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Hugo – Howard Shore
War Horse – John Williams

The BFCA has obviously made a lot of nominations and some of them are interesting but I have to be honest: the BFCA as an organization annoys me with how they’re always bragging about how big they are and how they’re so good at celebrating the conventional establishment wisdom.  So, I’ll just say that its nice to see Hanna getting at least some sort of recognition (even if that recognition is kinda minor.)

Belatedly, here are the Satellite Nominations


One thing about Oscar Season is that you have so many different groups of people tossing around so many different awards that occasionally, you’ll miss a few.  The nominations for the Satellite Awards were announced last Friday but I missed them, largely because nobody really seems to care about the Satellite Awards.  Well, almost nobody.  I care about them because — even when they were known as the Golden Satellites — the Satellite Awards are consistently more interesting than the more mainstream awards.  (For instance, last year, the Satellite Awards had the guts to honor the one and only true girl with the dragon tattoo, Noomi Rapace.)

Best Picture

The Artist

The Descendants

Drive

The Help

Hugo

Midnight in Paris

Moneyball

Shame

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

War Horse

What?  No love for David Fincher’s rip-off of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo?  The AwardsDaily folks must be throwing a fit.  (They’ve been promoting Fincher’s rehash with the same enthusiasm that they attempted to promote Nine two years ago.)

Best Actor

George Clooney in The Descendants

Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar

Michael Fassbender in Shame

Brendan Gleeson in The Guard

Ryan Gosling in Drive

Tom Hardy in The Warrior

Woody Harrelson in Rampart

Gary Oldman in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Brad Pitt in Moneyball

Michael Shannon in Take Shelter

It’s nice to see Brendan Gleeson get some love.  It’s also interesting to note that Michael Shannon’s performance in Take Shelter has been getting a lot of recognition.  Count me among those who hopes that Shannon gets, at the very least, a nomination for giving a great performance in a horror film.

Best Actress

Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs

Olivia Colman in Tryannasour

Viola Davis for The Help

Vera Farmiga in Higher Ground

Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene

Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady

Charlize Theron in Young Adult

Emily Watson in Oarnges and Sunshine

Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn

Michelle Yeoh in The Lady

Much as the Satellites recognized the work of Noomi Rapace last year, this year they continue to at least nominate some great performances that are being ignored by the mainstream.  In a perfect world, both Verma Farmiga and Higher Ground would be major contenders.

Best Supporting Actor

Kenneth Branagh in My Week With Marilyn

Albert Brooks in Drive

Colin Farrell in Horrible Bosses

Jonah Hill in Moneyball

Viggo Mortensen in A Dangerous Method

Nick Nolte in Warrior

Christopher Plummer in Beginners

Andy Serkis for Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Christoph Waltz in Carnage

Hugo Weaving in Oranges and Sunshine

Wouldn’t it be cool if Andy Serkis actually got an Oscar nomination?  It’s also nice to see Jonah Hill finally getting some recognition for Moneyball.  Brad Pitt has been honored largely for playing Brad Pitt in that film.  Hill actually gave a performance.

Best Supporting Actress

Jessica Chastain in The Tree of Life

Elle Fanning in Super 8

Lisa Feret in Mozart’s Sister

Judy Greer in The Descendants

Rachel McAdams in Midnight in Paris

Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs

Carey Mulligan in Shame

Vanessa Redgrave in Coriolanus

Octavia Spencer in The Help

Kate Winslet in Carnage

I haven’t seen Shame yet but Carey Mulligan is one of my favorite actresses and she deserved an Oscar for her performance in An Education.  It’s also nice to see Judy Greer getting some recognition for giving one of the few performances in The Descendants that’s actually going to pass the test of time.

The full list of nominees can be found here.

The WAFCA Has Spoken


I don’t know much about the Washington Area Film Critics Association but, just judging from the films that they chose to nominate for being the best of 2011, they would appear to have better taste than most film critics. 

(Seriously, film critics are the worst.)

They announced their picks for the best of 2011 earlier today and here’s a complete list of their nominees and winners.  If nothing else, this year’s Oscar race is certainly shaping up to be a bit more interesting than last years. 

Best Film:
*The Artist
The Descendants
Drive
Hugo
Win Win

Best Director:
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)
*Martin Scorsese (Hugo)

Best Actor:
*George Clooney (The Descendants)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)

Best Actress:
Viola Davis (The Help)
Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
*Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)

Best Supporting Actor:
Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
*Albert Brooks (Drive)
John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

Best Supporting Actress:
Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Carey Mulligan (Shame)
*Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)

Best Acting Ensemble:
*Bridesmaids
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Help
Hugo
Margin Call

Best Adapted Screenplay:
*Alexander Payne and Nate Faxon & Jim Rash (The Descendants)
Tate Taylor (The Help)
John Logan (Hugo)
Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin (Moneyball)
Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)

Best Original Screenplay:

Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Tom McCarthy (Win Win)
Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids)
*Will Reiser (50/50)

Best Animated Feature:
The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Puss in Boots
*Rango
Winnie the Pooh

Best Documentary:
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey
Buck
*Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life
Project Nim

Best Foreign Language Film:
13 Assassins
Certified Copy
I Saw the Devil
Pina
*The Skin I Live In

Best Art Direction:
Lawrence Bennett, Production Designer, and Gregory S. Hooper, Art Director (The Artist)
Stuart Craig, Production Designer, and Stephenie McMillan, Set Decorator (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2)
*Dante Ferretti, Production Designer, and Francesca Lo Schiavo, Set Decorator (Hugo)
Jack Fisk, Production Designer, and Jeanette Scott, Set Decorator (The Tree of Life)
Rick Carter, Production Designer, and Lee Sandales, Set Decorator (War Horse)

Best Cinematography:
Guillaume Schiffman (The Artist)
Robert Richardson (Hugo)
Manuel Alberto Claro (Melancholia)
*Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life)
Janusz Kaminski (War Horse)

Best Score:
*Ludovic Bource (The Artist)
Cliff Martinez (Drive)
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Howard Shore (Hugo)
John Williams (War Horse)

Trailer: Shame (dir. Steve McQueen) Red Band


Shame looks to be the film of 2011 which may just be one of the most talked about. This is no mean feat considering earlier independent films such as Drive has been the talk of the town whether one loved or hated the film.

The film stars Michael Fassbender who has been having quite the year with exceptional roles both in mainstream and the arthouse circuit (X-Men: First Class and A Dangerous Method). It also stars Carey Mulligan playing the younger sister to Fassbender’s 30ish yuppie who has issues with his addiction and urge when it comes to sex. The film has been given by the MPAA the dreaded NC-17 rating, but instead of railing against this system it looks like filmmaker Steve McQueen will embrace the rating and release the film as is.

I find this decision refreshing. The film is for adults and mature audiences and should be seen by only those old enough as allowed by the NC-17 rating. One thing for sure is that the film has been getting major hype and buzz due to Fassbender baring it all and on more than one occasion. Will this titillating aspect of the film be the biggest draw for audiences or will the performances, direction and writing by the creative minds involved in the film be it’s biggest seller. Either way should be good since in the end the film will be seen.

Shame is set to have a December 2, 2011 release in the United States…just in time for awards season.

Trailer: Shame (dir. Steve McQueen)


Every year sees a few films which dares to push the boundaries of film storytelling. This year already had the exemplary film Drive from Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn and now with the year on it’s final two months we have another in Shame by the British filmmaker Steve McQueen.

Shame is an erotic drama starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan and has been making the international film festival circuit with the film and Fassbender earning accolades for best picture and best actor. The film was already gathering some steam not just through the performances and McQueen’s direction, but for it’s producers stance on not appealing the MPAA giving the film the dreaded NC-17 rating. The film will be shown to the audience uncut and as it was meant to be instead of being re-edited for a much more business-friendly R-rating.

I, for one, applaud the filmmakers sticking to their guns about showing it in it’s NC-17 form. Now, the rest of the film-going world will finally get to see what all the hype and hoopla about this film when it gets a limited release this December 2, 2011 in the United States and on January 13, 2012 over in the UK.

Review: Drive (dir. by Nicolas Winding Refn)


Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn has made just a handful of films with most staying under the radar of most of the general film-going public. He first caught the attention of indie film fans with his Pusher Trilogy over in Denmark, but he really caught the attention of these fans with his explosive collaboration with Tom Hardy on the Bronson biopic. He would follow that film with the violent existentialist Viking film Valhalla Rising. It would take another major collaboration with another rising star in Ryan Gosling for Winding Refn to finally have his major breakout film which has caught the attention of not just the indie film fans and cineaste crowd, but the general public at-large.

Drive was first screened over at this year’s 2011 Cannes Film Festival where it premiered “in competition” for the Palme d’Or. While the film didn’t win the top prize for best film at Cannes it didn’t garner Nicolas Winding Refn “Best Director” award and his work on this film more than merits such an accolade. The film would begin to screen at other major film festivals before landing at the Toronto International Film Festival before making it’s major public release in North America. Everywhere the film went the consensus reaction to the film has ranged from positive to calls for the film as one of 2011’s best.

So, it would seem most everyone has been quite positive with their reaction to Refn’s Drive. Is this film just another indie arthouse title which the elitist film fans have begun to hype up to levels that would border on cosmic? Or is this film actually as good as it has been talked up to be by such film fans and those of the general public who have seen it? I think the answer lies somewhere in-between.

Drive has been called an action-drama to crime-thriller to film noir and even an existentialist meditation of the film variety. Some have even called it a modern urban fairy tale from the many traditional tropes and themes inherent in fairy tales. The film actually seems to defy genre labels as it’s all those and even more. Nicolas Winding Refn has made a film with so much variety in its cinematic DNA from other classic films and storytelling styles that watching the film once is not enough to find them all.

The film makes a strong statement with it’s introduction of the character who remains nameless but could be called “The Driver” or “The Kid”. Ryan Gosling’s performance in this opening sequence will set the foundation for his character from beginning to end. His driver role is not much for chit-chat and unnecessary talking with those who have hired him to be their expert getaway driver. He’s meticulous with his equipment and intractable when it comes to the rules he has set down for his clients. He would be theirs for the five minutes they need him to drive them away from their criminal acts. Whatever they do before or after those five minutes doesn’t matter to him and he sticks to this rule explicitly. Another rule which he lays down is that he will not be carrying a firearm. These rules have had some audiences bring to mind Jason Statham’s Transporter character and they would not be totally wrong to say so. What Gosling’s driver has over Statham’s is the air of realism to the role. It’s a realism that borders on hyper-reality as the film moves on to it’s climactic conclusion, but real nonetheless. Gosling’s “driver” will not do extensive and elaborate fighting skills the way Statham’s would.

The film would move from it’s powerful introduction and into a much more calm and somewhat serene section as the nameless driver gradually gets to know his next door neighbor in the form of Irene as played by Carey Mulligan. Their relationship will form the core of the film’s narrative and it’s the driver’s growing affection not just for Irene but her young son that would dictate some of the decisions he would make right up to the end of the film. It’s a relationship built not on extensive dialogue banter but mostly on meaningful glances and silent understanding between two characters who seem to have found a kindred kinship between them. It’s this growing relationship between the two and Irene’s son which almost look like a familial unit forming until the return of Irene’s incarcerated and newly-released husband Standard. This is a character played by Oscar Isaac as a man desperate to take full advantage of his last chance at normalcy and redemption, but ultimately doomed to fail.

Standard doesn’t just become the only wrench in the happy life Gosling’s character seems to want to have with Irene and her son. Into the picture also happens to come in is his mentor and business partner Shannon (Bryan Cranston doing a great job as the good-natured, but opportunistic fool character many Shakespearean tragedies always seem to have) and Shannon’s even seedier acquaintances in Hollywood mogul-turned-mob boss Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks in a chilling performance) and his more boisterous, but not as smart partner in Nino (Ron Perlman).

The film seems to settle on the low gears for the first hour of the film, but it’s during a botched robbery attempt where the driver becomes embroiled in that Drive finally moves into the high gears and stays there until the very end. Refn’s decision to use the first hour to round out and build the characters in this film definitely pays off in the end. The audience becomes quite clear as to who the players are and what motivates them to do what they do the rest of the film. Even the most secondary and tertiary roles in this film has a part to play. Even Christina Hendricks in the role of a low-level moll to a gang of criminals gets to have her time to shine if just briefly.

Once the narrative shifts from character study to an almost Cronenbergian exercise in violence and brutality does the film finally able to hook in the last few audiences who may have still been iffy about Drive. Not to say that the final 45-minutes of the film was a non-stop action film, but it does move at a consistently higher gear pace than the first hour. We see the driver having to show to the audience that he’s not just an expert wheelman for Hollywood (stunt driver by day) and the criminal underground (getaway driver by night). It serves the film well that Gosling’s character has the barest minimum of lines of dialogue. We see all we need to know about this character through his behavior that brings to mind roles played by such past luminaries as Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood.

Most likely it would be in the second half of the film that should satisfy the action junkies. While the action scenes are not of the Michael Bay-type they do show that Refn has a fine grasp of what makes an action scene thrilling. Whether the scene calls for some of the most well-done car chase on film since Frankenheimer showed everyone how to properly do it in Ronin or scenes of sudden brutal violence which calls to mind similar scenes from Cronenberg’s last two films (A History of Violence and Eastern Promises). Both types of action were done efficiently with little to no glamour to gloss over things. The burst of violence actually adds to the mystique of Gosling’s “Man With No Name” role. One particular scene in the apartment elevator where Gosling, Mulligan and a goon sent by the mob makes for one of the best scenes in the film and of 2011.

As much as these scenes of action and violence will be the ones to get the most attention from the general film-going public in the end it’s the excellent screenplay by Hossein Amini of the James Sallis’ novel of the same name which really holds everything together in conjunction with some top-notch performances from everyone involved. The film makes or breaks itself on Gosling’s performance as the driver and he delivers on all cylinders. His performance was quite reminiscent of past performances such as James Caan as Frank in Michael Mann’s Thief, Steve McQueen also as Frank in Bullitt, but in my opinion Gosling’s work in this film brings to mind young Clint Eastwood as “The Man With No Name” in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western trilogy. Both characters were the type to let their actions speak for them and were both full of quiet confidence not to mention restrained violence which would erupt when needed.

Much has been said about Albert Brooks’ turn as the mob boss Bernie Rose. how the role was quite the 180-degrees from people’s perception of the actor who usually did comedic roles. I say that Albert Brooks always had a dark side to his comedic talent. I mean he was and is megamaniacal villain Hank Scorpio from The Simpsons. In all seriousness, Brooks’ as the mob boss was the other pillar which held all the other performances focused. In fact, Gosling’s character and Brook’s Bernie Rose could almost be considered mirror-images of each other. They were characters who had found their place in the world and the role they would play and didn’t struggle against it. Everyone else in the film struggled against their lot in life. It was also these characters who had the bulk of the film’s dialogue.

Drive has been hyped (for some overhyped) since it first premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but it’s one of those rare films which has more than earned and surpassed the hype which has preceded it’s general release to the general public. It’s a film which bucks traditional genre labels by combining the themes, ideas and foundations from many different film and storytelling genres. For fans of action there’s enough thrilling action to sate them. For those who are fans of film noir this film definitely carries within it the DNA set down by the film noir of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. For some who wish to watch a film which explore existential themes then Refn’s film has that too. In the end, Drive manages to be a film which caters to so many different audiences without ever pandering to them or dumbing the story down. It’s a film made by a filmmaker who continues to impress and who has made his best film to date.

Drive is a film that is not for everyone, but it’s also a film that everyone should see and experience at least once. It is also one of the year’s best films and, so far, my top film of 2011.

Drive Review


This review is not one filled with spoilers but I’d just warn that one can better understand the points I’m trying to make if they have seen the film. Obviously everything I say below is my own opinion and interpretations of the film and many will disagree. I’m writing this second review because in order to sustain my recent obsession with Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film ‘Drive’, I have been reading a lot of interviews with the director so that I could both  better understand the motivation and ideas surrounding its creation as well as to better appreciate its style and themes so that I can add that onto my already huge admiration and love for the film to better articulate how I felt and express why I think it is the second best film of the year, the first being ‘The Tree of Life’ which was the only other I have seen in 2011 that has caused me to do a second write up like this one and although ‘Drive’ might not be as “deep”, I do believe it is much more complex than some make it out to be and a second viewing caused me to think about it none stop and there are just something’s I need to say.

Since this past weekend when I did see it that second time, the thing that I have come to understand that really caused me to view the entire film in a much different perspective was that my very simple explanation in my other review of it being some sort of character study in the vein of ‘The American’ mixed with ‘Taxi Driver’, though in some ways true, does not even begin to acknowledge the fact that what ‘Drive’ really is, and what Refn decided to create, is a film with a fairy tale archetype guided by an old fable whose themes of love, nature, brutality and heroism shed a new light on the character’s romance and exploits, as well as makes the stories ending that much more emotional.

Refn considers this idea of it being a fairytale to be true, and has said it multiple times, because that is ultimately what he wanted to create. In his words ‘Drive’ is a fairytale set in Los Angeles, whose characters are larger than life figures representing “pure emotion” as he put it; which explains why the love is so pure and the violence is so brutal and there is rarely a middle ground, they are exaggerations of real emotions to add to its fantastical tone.

The first half is the serene and pure story of the innocent young maiden lost in the woods who falls for a “Knight in shining armor”. When evil appears and violates their world of purity and love and threatens the young maiden’s wellbeing, they must be punished by the Knight which brings out a much darker side to the story, in the vein of the Grimm fairytales. The young maiden of course being Irene (Carey Mulligan), a single mother raising her son alone while her husband is in prison. The Knight she falls for has no name but is referred to as simply the Driver (Ryan Gosling). A quiet and mysterious man who is a mechanic and stuntmen by day and a getaway driver by night. He is lonely and most enjoys being out on the road, but easily falls for the beautiful Irene and her son, who offer a chance to be human and evoke emotions he rarely feels. This simple story of love is interrupted when Standard (Oscar Isaac), Irene’s husband, reappears. Not only does he cause a divide but his past resurfaces which has connections to two dangerous gangsters (Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman). In order to do whatever he can to protect Irene and her son, the Driver offers his services to Standard for a heist. It ultimately goes horribly wrong and the two gangsters look to cover it all up by getting rid of all involved, which includes the Driver and Irene.

From here that much darker side appears as the Driver is forced to fight back and protect the things he cares about. This half of the story is guided by the fable of “The Scorpion and the Frog”, about a scorpion who asks a frog to carry him across a river. The frog is afraid to do so because he does not want to be stung but the scorpion tells him that if he were to sting the frog they’d both drown, so the frog agrees. Halfway across the scorpion does in fact sting the frog dooming them both and when the frog asks why he did so the scorpion replies that it is in his nature. The idea being for some creatures their behavior is irrepressible and so cannot be controlled no matter what the consequences. For the scorpion his nature was to sting, he does things instinctively and without much thought. When in a situation where this instinctive nature must come to the surface, when cornered or in this case when those people the Driver cares for are threatened, he reverts to that aggressive scorpion nature and stings, hard and violent no matter the consequence which in this case means losing himself or the ones he cares for.

The elevator scene is really that tipping point where the stinger comes out and not surprisingly one of the best scenes in the entire film. It is when he puts his human emotion and love aside in order to fully protect Irene. After he kisses her goodbye he knows he is about to reveal his true nature. After viciously killing the man who had put him into that corner he looks at Irene and knows it is over which is his ‘great sacrifice’, letting the one he loves go in order to protect her, and what makes him a true hero. The elevator door closes and the two are separated for good. He must now do whatever he can to distance himself and all this evil from Irene and her son.

What is interesting about the idea of the Driver as being a hero is the sort of duel personalities he evokes. One could say he is human by day, working a normal job, shopping and falling in love but a “hero” by night, though not helping the right people. When the story really becomes interesting is when he has to blend the two personas to become something more which is why Refn and Gosling have described it as their ‘superhero’ film. He is a man with the capacity to be a “real hero” and it is only when he can bring his human emotion to that more aggressive and skillful side that he does become this sort of superhero-like character. Obviously it is difficult for him. It isn’t a smooth transition and at times he has trouble controlling it, which comes through as he shakes as his anger and adrenaline builds when talking to Nino on the phone and of course when he brutality stomps the life out of one of Nino’s hitmen in the elevator scene mentioned earlier. This is that scorpion nature coming through, this aggressive nature is the key to his power, and why it is most fitting that his ‘custom’ is a jacket with a scorpion logo on the back.

Though his actions seem necessary he still does not want to lose his ‘human’ side and puts on the mask towards the end because he must fully embrace this more aggressive side to get the job done, to quell his emotions and settle the battle raging between both persona’s and essentially become a lifeless and aggressive vessel with one objective. This way he can do what needs to be done, evoke a bit of fear from his target, but cover up and shield his human persona and not completely lose himself. Throughout this he becomes someone we empathizes with, even if his methods seem to be so extreme. The outcome to it all, although somewhat ambiguous, is a fitting and emotional conclusion where some people do in fact live happily ever after.

What makes this all work so effectively is the fact that ‘Drive’ is a film in which things don’t need to be spoken to be said. One where characters express more through silence, short but poignant dialogue and the interactions they have together. Refn brilliantly creates a dreamlike and contemplative exploration of the serene and the hyper violent set within a fairytale like story that happens to be a slow burning character study of the ‘scorpion’ where everything is just below the surface and it all builds up, through a series of quiet and calm moments, only to erupt into brutal violence. Nothing is handed to you, there is no blatant exposition, you don’t always know what is going on in a characters head and it helps create a level of tension and actually requires one to think. This isn’t some sort of mindless action thriller, it’s much more contemplative and complex than one would expect. He polishes it all off with a retro varnish evoking a different time, helping to set it apart from reality and add to its moody atmosphere, but still keeping it grounded enough to feel real and have that emotional punch. Add onto that all of that the fantastic performances: Ryan Gosling’s brilliantly effective and charismatic performance as the Driver, Carey Mulligans charming and sweet portrayal of Irene, Ron Perlman’s brutish and aggressive Nino, Albert Brooks as the ruthless but understandable Bernie, Bryan Cranston as the downtrodden but humorous Shannon, Oscar Isaac as Irene’s husband who needs help to avoid his past; and what you are left with is a masterful, beautiful and complex film. It truly is a modern day fairytale, perfect in every way, and a film that I couldn’t help but fall in love with.