Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Carey Mulligan
In a small scene, and through an even smaller gesture, Ryan Gosling and Bryan Cranston author what is one of the more moving and darkly humourous sequences I can recall having seen in the past months.
Cranston's Shannon, hapless as ever, finds himself bleeding out in his own garage after a pre-ordained meeting with the keen side of Bernie's (Albert Brooks) straight razor. Protecting his protege, The Driver (Gosling), Shannon refuses to tip his hand with regards to his knowledge of The Driver's whereabouts, and dies. The final sounds his ears register are the strangely calming assurances of his killer that everything's fine, it's done. The Driver finds Shannon a few minutes later, life drained away, sitting in mock repose against the rear bumper of a classic car. The Driver crouches and observes his dead friend, then slowly and deliberately extends an arm and gently tilts the corpse's head to the right. There is neither an exploitative nor sentimental quality to the action, but it somehow conveys a tremendous sense of sadness.
Even though Shannon is a nobody, I was affected by his death, and experienced an almost overwhelming sense of sympathy at that moment. Such is the mark of a master filmmaker who can deal in pathos without most of the audience even knowing it.
That The Driver then stands, opens the trunk of the car and lifts the bag full of Bernie's money - the money for which Shannon, mere moments ago, lost his life - seals and stamps one of the most unassuming perfect scenes, and one that's stayed with me for the past week.