Drive (Movie Review)

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer: Hossein Amini
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Pearlman
Additonal Info: The movie is based on the novel by James Sallis and has an 18 Certificate

Before watching Drive I was asked by a few people what it was about. My answer was usually along the lines of “an unnamed driver who is a stunt driver or something and looks bad ass and helps a woman out, or something.” Now after seeing it my answer is much more well informed but no less precise. And that’s because not a lot happens in Drive. Not really. For 96 minutes we watch Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March) saying very little and looking pretty badass. This is punctuated with some car chases and Ryan Gosling looking even more badass but also a bit scary when he unleashes his hidden emotions rather violently. But Drive is an art film that also happens to be popular. And understandably so.

As I stated, not much happens, yet Lewis and I still found it a little difficult to follow elements of the story. Mainly we struggled with how some people are connected to each other. But that didn’t really matter, as I said the film is an art film and the story isn’t that important. And I mean that in a good way. Where the film excels is in the story that is not spoken in dialogue but shown. It’s clear from the first meeting of Gosling’s unnamed Driver and Irene (Carey Mulligan, Never Let Me Go) that he likes her. And the audience highly suspects that she reciprocates this. But the Driver never openly expresses his feelings, except in his actions. The whole film is based on him getting revenge for her husband’s murder and trying to protect her and her son Benico (Kaden Leos). That and the kiss he gives her in the lift tell the audience they were right to think he liked her. The rest is all down to the beautiful framing and the shared glances between the Driver and Irene. It’s written all over their faces.

Another example of the exquisite framing is the first car chase. There is still fast editing and pace, like Hollywood films but the camera always stays inside the car, often panning around the Driver to show the car from behind his point of view. This makes for a welcome breath of fresh air from Hollywood’s obsession for fast jerky shots that are supposed to convey speed and action but only serve to confuse the audience and often take their stomachs for a turn.

Some people criticised the violence of Drive, saying it did not fit with the rest of the film.  But if you look at the Driver throughout the film he is calm and collected, rarely speaking. And when he does so in a soft voice, saying as little as possible. And, whilst the violence is very graphic, it is done in a very calm and casual way, even when it is not the Driver behind the violence. So in that sense it fits with the overall tone of the film. And the violence is obviously an outlet for the Driver to release his unspoken emotions. Which isn’t advisable but certainly makes sense and it natural. 

Now before I talk about the soundtrack I want to point out that if you take out the mobile phones and the modern cars this film, it could have easily have been set in the 80s. But the main reason I say that is because of the 80s style music in the film. And what music it is. My only gripe was the song Oh My Love by Riz Ortolani (featuring Katyna Ranieri) which didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the music or with the mood at the time it was played in the film. The rest of the soundtrack is beautiful, however. A Real Hero by College (featuring Electric Youth) stands out in particular and is now one of my most played songs on iTunes. But the actual score composed by Cliff Martinez also really stands out, being very beautiful and ambient, adding tension to some scenes.

Drive will appeal to a lot of people; action fans tired of pumped-up steroid heroes and flashy action sequences aided by dollops of CGI; fans of car chases; or just people looking for something a little different. However, here are some words of warning: 1. It is an 18 for a reason, some of the action sequences can be quite gory. 2. You may find A Real Hero by College stuck in your head after watching this film and may find yourself buying the awesome soundtrack.

You have been warned.

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