One film that I wasn't necessarily interested in at this year's Cannes was Drive, from Bronson director Nicholas Winding Refn. Despite a cast full of names I like - Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Henricks - there was nothing about the premise (a getaway driver gets a hit put out on him) that really drew me in. Even the initial casting of Hugh Jackman in the lead couldn't get me psyched for this one. However, in a little twist, Refn's latest has earned some of the festival's most consistently positive reactions. They aren't all raves, but considering Cannes' notoriously outspoken audiences, having this sort of reception up against heavy hitters like Malick and Almodovar is something to keep an eye out for:
Rope of Silicon - Brad Brevet: (A+) "Pure cinema, pure entertainment, pure adrenaline."
The Film Stage - Raffi Asdourian: (B) "...Drive is still able to maintain Refn's signature antics while rarely losing focus, even if the film's bigger themes and messages sometimes hit the occasional awkward speed bump."
indieWire - Eric Kohn: (B+) "...Refn churns out a hyperactive love letter to road rage with unapologetic glee. It's a blast." "...within the larger context of contemporary big screen spectacles, Drive easily cruises to the top of the pack."
The Playlist - James Rocchi: (A) "Drive works as a great demonstration of how, when there's true talent behind the camera, entertainment and art are not enemies, but allies."
InContention - Guy Lodge (Twitter): (A-) "I won't lie to you: I pretty much want to have sex with this movie. Hot, clipped, nasty, beautiful. Best thing in competition."
The Hollywood Reporter - Todd McCarthy: (N/A) "...Refn has fashioned an atomospheric and engaging glorified potboiler that nonetheless seems powered by a half-empty creative tank."
The Guardian - Xan Brooks: (4/5 Stars) "It's too self-consciously retro, too much a series of cool, blank surfaces, as opposed to a rounded, textured drama." "The most they can hope for is to go down in a blaze of glory. Drive does, with bells on."
Variety - Peter Debruge: (N/A) "...a sleek, retro styled B-movie that benefits immensely from the aloof, virtually nihilistic edge Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn (Bronson) brings to the party." "Gosling is chillingly stoic..." "...doesn't quite know how to handle the character vacuum at its core, but compensates by surrounding its protag with a colorful supporting ensemble."
Additional Comments: Critics seem split on whether to criticize or embrace the seeming hollowness of Gosling's nameless protagonist.
Cannes Verdict: It may seem out of place among more seemingly "highbrow" Cannes entries, but Drive, for its faults in character development and writing, is undeniably an energetic and stylish adrenaline rush.