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Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011)

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Ryan Gosling at the wheel in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011)

Here’s a typically elegant and perceptive essay by J. Hoberman from The Village Voice on Drive (2011), the new action film by director Nicolas Winding Refn. As Hoberman usefully points out,

“As stripped-down and propulsive as its robotic title, Drive is the most “American” movie yet by Danish genre director Nicolas Winding Refn. The film, for which Refn was named best director last May in Cannes, is a sleek, tense piece of work that, as a vehicle for Ryan Gosling, has a kind of daredevil control [. . .] Refn is primarily a stylist, and this tale of a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a hired wheelman (or is it vice versa?) and gets played for a patsy is a lovingly assembled, streamlined pastiche of ’80s movies and TV. The most obvious reference is Walter Hill’s schematic action flick The Driver: This 1978 paean to professional cool in the person of Ryan O’Neal more or less provides Drive’s title, premise, uninflected antihero, and minimalist existentialism, as well as its two-dimensional attitude.”

I’ve always thought that The Driver was one of Hill’s best films, and this is an inspired riff on the original, by a thoughtful and intelligent genre artist. Interestingly, the project was originally pitched to Gosling, and it was Gosling who chose Refn as the director for Drive; a first for Gosling’s career, and a very smart decision. Those who think that Cannes only honors more traditional “art” films should think again; this is a festival that continually surprises informed observers, in the most pleasingly possible fashion. Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Christina Hendricks are also in the film, so all in all, this is a very strong ensemble cast for any project. And you know what’s really refreshing? As Mike Fleming reports in Deadline Hollywood, the film was made for roughly $30 million, and in today’s economy, that’s bare bones filmmaking.

Read Hoberman’s entire essay here.

About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or wdixon1@unl.edu. Visit him at his website wheelerwinstondixon.com.

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