07/10/2018

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Three long years have passed since Anna, First of Tomas, survived the purge in Malijad after being forced to use her scribe sigils to create an army of immortals. Safely ensconced in the shelter of the Nest, a sanctuary woven by one of her young allies, Anna spends her days tutoring the gifted yet traumatized scribe, Ramyi—and coming to terms with her growing attachment to an expatriate soldier in her company.

 

Away from her refuge, war drums continue to beat. Thwarted in her efforts to locate the elusive tracker and bring him to justice, Anna turns to the state of Nahora and its network of spies for help. But Nahoran assistance comes with a price: Anna must agree to weaponize her magic for the all-out military confrontation to come.

 

Dispatched to the front lines with Ramyi in tow, Anna will find her new alliances put to the test, her old tormentors lying in wait, and the fate of a city placed in her hands. To protect the innocent, she must be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. For even in this season of retribution, the gift of healing may be the most powerful weapon of all.

 

A Belated Review of 2011’s DRIVE by james wolanyK

 

When I first watched Nicolas Winding Refn’s film Drive, I had no idea what to think. It was my first year at university, and on one of those seemingly vacuous whims that steers us toward hidden gems, I attended a small-scale screening of the film without any exposure to reviews, trailers, or Twitter buzz. It was wholly different from anything I’d ever seen, and as of now, in the balmy comfort of summer 2018, it remains distinct, even miraculous, in the same sense that no two car crashes can ever be quite the same.

 

Up until seeing Drive, my film preferences were largely on par with what studio focus groups expected of a young male demographic: comic book mega-productions, irreverent comedies, the occasional heist extravaganza one begins to forget immediately after tossing out an empty popcorn bag. And while my monthly credit card purchase history may reveal a continuing and sordid affair with those exact films, Drive did something magical for me—it changed the way I approached films. There was no longer an expectation of feeling uplifted when the credits rolled, nor a need to feel sedated with joy, with resolution, with an all-consuming sense that the world was pure and redeemed by heroes. It became sufficient to simply feel something; to feel anything, in fact.

 

Drive has a reasonably familiar narrative: A getaway driver (Ryan Gosling) is tasked with taking down several mob enforcers (Ron Perlman among them) hell-bent on recovering dirty money. But like the film itself, the story’s devil is in the details. Gosling’s driver is a socially stunted, nearly mute stunt driver, not an ex-con looking for one last score. His associate (Bryan Cranston) is the closest thing he has to a father figure, a friend. His love interest (Carrey Mulligan) is entangled with a criminal (Oscar Isaac) who’s just been released from prison, and is desperate to make amends. There’s no easy way out for any of these characters; they’re enslaved by their own natures, their own niches they’ve carved out in this world.

 

In one of my favorite motifs of all time, which Winding Refn has continually asserted is paying homage to a 70’s cult classic, Gosling’s character bears a scorpion on the back of his quilted white jacket. This is further explored by references to the story of the frog and the scorpion, in which a frog offers a scorpion passage over a river, only for the scorpion to sting the frog and damn them both. Throughout the film, we’re given various angles with which to view the relationship. Is Gosling the scorpion, or is he simply ferrying them on his back?

 

There’s heavy, effective use of violence as both a theme and a tool, and in a manner that breaks with much of action movie tradition. Killing is swift, brutal, and entirely unexpected. It blossoms out of the quietest and most serene moments of the film—a character adjusting her hair in a bathroom mirror, an innocent kiss in an elevator (replete with hazy light and slow-motion galore). Are we supposed to sympathize with these characters? Fear them? Every viewing introduces a new layer to that dissection.

 

Underscoring the entire experience is a soundtrack that occasionally crosses into didactic perfection. There’s a beautiful, often understated, quality to the synth-pop music, composed by 80’s electronica giants such as College and The Chromatics. The soundtrack sits comfortably atop the film’s overarching presentation of silence, carrying with it a sense of melancholy, of happiness almost realized, of emotion dumped into a synthesizer and drained of some inherently human quality. You can’t listen to lines such as “A real human being / And a real hero” without being entranced by the blank, borderline mindless quality in Gosling’s stare.

 

What Drive truly puts on display, through a combination of technically brilliant cinematography and engaging performances, is a tragedy of the human condition. People holding one another at arm’s length, burying their true natures, destroying things through only the best of intentions. There are some thematic echoes of Gosling’s driver in one of his most recent roles (Blade Runner 2049), and he portrays this inhuman distance with pathos that feels almost impossible, given the disposition of his character. Rather than living in the world, he comes off as a phantom, an observer of everything he seeks to have. This is best exemplified in haunting scenes such as his visit to a pizza restaurant, in which he stands outside with one of his trademark stunt-driving masks and gazes in at a brightly lit gathering of friends and well-wishers. There’s a sense of longing that feels authentic and wounding. A need to be loved, to love somebody else, to exchange the callousness of the outer world for the warmth of intimacy. Yet in trying to move closer to that state of acceptance, he finds—or perhaps breeds—precisely the harm that his nature entails.

 

Drive is surely in the running for a modern classic, and considering its flawless use of a timeless, almost anachronistic aesthetic, it’s in no danger of aging poorly. The elements of the film exist in their own dimension, unmoved by eras and trends: Love, hatred, trust. To label it a mere crime film would downplay everything I’ve grown to cherish in it."

 

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