Ryan Gosling stars at the Driver, a quiet and existentially mysterious character who never questions his actions; he swerves from oncoming cars, hides behind trucks in the dead of night, and takes criminals he has never met and takes them to a safe-house at the conclusion of their heist. He is, iconically, a Travis Brickle character for the mob, although Travis seems narcissistic in comparison.
The Driver does not only do the night-gig, he also is a driver for Hollywood. A metaphor for living in someone elses life, the thief’s, he wears a wax mask and plummets through set pieces, flipping his car upside down for the shot. When he meets a girl, he finds a purpose, in more than one way. The film is brilliantly lit in the backdrop of its illuminated city and fast cars, and Gosling does a fine job for having the camera set on his face for the majority of the time; it gets tiring and makes it difficult for Driver to have any sort of cult-following, his face with a toothpick is the poster-boy image of the whole film.
Their are moments of shock in the film that should not go unappraised; its suddenness in action, from quiet scenes of inner thought, to barrels being blown, mixes for a strange and all the more interesting conflict. We do not know The Driver, but nonetheless find a connection, even though he shows no uproarious emotion from the girl he meets, (Carey Mulligan) to make the audience cry out of joy and happiness, what a poor movie would indulge in. In a sense, The Driver always wears a mask, and by being a driver and quiet onlooker, he seems to like to indulge in voyeurism.
The film blends great acting, visceral action, and visual panic to create a stirring, contemplative film. The villian, or avenger, played by Ron Perlman, is appropriately esteemed by his own figure and nastiness, and Perlman plays him in a very appropriate, albeit niche, manner. The film succeeds for the people who accept it what is is: A tense, contemplative heist-genre film with a crew of fine performances and casting.