Monday, September 19, 2011

Movie Reviews: Driving is Contagious

Contagion movie poster, image property of Warner Bros.
Drive movie poster, image property of FilmDistrict.


Director Steven Soderbergh’s thriller about a pandemic quickly killing off millions of people is stylish, straight-forward and highly entertaining from the get-go.  Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns from a business trip to Hong Kong feeling sick—very sick—and moments into the film she is spewing foam out of her mouth and convulsing before dying unexpectedly.  Her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) finds that he is immune to what scientists are discovering is a deadly virus with no known cure and is left to grieve while protecting his daughter (Anna Jacoby-Heron).  Meanwhile Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) and a crew of scientists and medical authorities (including Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle and Elliott Gould) all race against time to discover the origins of the virus and how they can best stop it.  All while blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) and the rest of the world deal with the fear of world destruction.

Contagion was a very interesting look at how connected our world is and how very easily we could all be affected by something so sinister.  The movie reveled in believability and created interesting characters and situations that could potentially arise from a pandemic of that nature.  Casting so many well-known and gifted actors really helped to give the film authority and a reason to invest ourselves in their characters, but unfortunately some of the storylines got lost along the way leaving some of the actors underused.  But aside from a few plot lines that lacked resolution, I felt that the movie did a very good job of painting a frightening—yet ultimately hopeful—depiction of the personal trauma and political banter that would derive from such a threat.


Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive is a calm, cool and collected film noir that is as gritty and brash as it is stunningly stylish and horrifically beautiful.  Ryan Gosling stars as a part-time stunt driver and mechanic who is very withdrawn and mysterious.  At nights he drives the getaway vehicles for various criminal heists—never getting involved and only driving.  But things get messy when he falls for his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan).  Her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) returns from prison and if he doesn’t do a job for some guys, they will come after Irene and their young son.  Gosling’s character—unnamed, mind you—agrees to drive for him, but things go awry and soon the driver must break his own rule and get involved in order to protect the woman he loves.

One of the things that I loved about Drive was that it was very controlled.  Every scene seemed necessary, every shot was given importance, and the characters weren’t overly “talky”.  It’s a nuanced film that isn’t afraid of silence, only employing a soundtrack at the crucial moments.  Another thing I loved was the beautiful photography, paying very close attention to lighting and framing.  My favorite scene takes place in an elevator and the whole thing is shot in a very surreal way, where time seems to stand still.  It’s stunning.  The scene quickly goes from dreamy and romantic to raw and brutal, and even the shocking violence is handled with an artistic flair.  Drive is simply captivating.

Read Brian’s reviews of Contagion and Drive on his new movie blog, Addiction to Film!

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