What I like about this film is that it totally focuses on the Hopkins/Gosling story-line. In many other films like these there's always that the policemen/attorneys (in this case Gosling) fall in love and then mess it up/ruin their marriage because the case is tearing them apart, you know the drill. There's always some sub story-line involving romance. Gosling finds romance in this movie with Rosamund Pike's character, but it doesn't evolve into another story-line. It doesn't take Willy Beachum's (Ryan Gosling) eyes off the price and even when it falls apart, he doesn't appear to care much (it's all about getting Crawford behind bars) or to feel a need to make it right. I like that. I mean, I love romance in films, but this movie shouldn't be about that and it's not.
Also, the fact that Ted Crawford (Hopkins) is in complete control over everything and everyone in this film astonishes me. This man plays roles like these so well! He just keeps you glued to the screen. The way he is in charge of Willy for (almost!) the entire film is just enjoyable to watch, making the end of the film even more enjoyable when the story comes out and the roles change.
Another reason to praise Gosling for the way he portrayed Willy Beachum. Anthony Hopkins is a legend. He is what draws people to theatres and he is one of the most brilliant actors of all times. Plus, he portrays such a strong character here that I can't help but praise Gosling for holding his own in a very strong manner. Scenes with Gosling are entertaining to watch. You feel drawn to him in almost the same way you feel drawn to Hopkins, even though Willy is in a dark place for most of the film and is hardly in control. Gosling's got great timing.
The story-line might be a little thin and fragile, the outcome is worth it. The movie surprises in more than one way, not in the last place because of the pretty much brilliant performances of both actors. Gosling is going to be big.