A Nice Change of Pace
The trailers for Drive made it look kind of like your standard action-crime movie who's only real benefit is a solid cast (and director, though I did not know it at the time), but a few critics I respect made it sound like it was a worth a watch. So I saw it with my dad and we walked out having very different opinions. He saw it as boring, pretentious, needlessly gory and overly stylized. Don't get me wrong, my dad has an excellent opinion on movies, this just wasn't his thing. A lot of people walked in expecting, as I did, a cool but simpleminded action movie about fast cars, like a Jason Statham movie, but starring Ryan Gosling, making it exotic somehow. Lot of people initially didn't like what it was, which is an excellent shift in atmosphere for a movie like this. I think the emphasis on artistry and style works to the film's advantage, because if not for the A-list actors, the virtuoso directing of Nicholas Winding Refn, and the nuanced writing, this is a story that has been done to death. The story in which a troubled loner steps into the lives of a down on their luck family and finds redemption by sacrificing his happiness to preserve theirs, usually by destroying the villains plaguing them and thus destroy the life of peace he desperately wants. It's a movie you'll see every two or three years with a different action star and guns and explosions and so on. But not like this. Drive is a Deconstruction of that story, taking it back to the '60s in terms of theme, feeling like Bullitt and Point Blank, with the look of '80s film noir. Instead of an out and out action hero, The Driver is a subdued but otherwise fascinating character, a stoic enigma who strives for excellence in both his day and night time activities, which is complicated when he develops feelings for a woman and her son. Her husband is in with seedy gangsters and has to do a job to get out of it. We all know how that goes? The Driver helps, gets involved. Then things get crazy. Though the laconic dialogue and shameless stylishness can seem kind of awkward, Drive is more than just a rendition of The Nameless Avenging Drifter. It has weight and depth, and is a feast for the eyes. I'd rather see a movie that has some craft and thought behind it then another knockoff of The Transporter.
Never EVER Trust a Trailer
A review in First Person Narration. Hey... I thought this was going to be The Fast And The Furious In the 80s. Oh well, this John Wayne-y vibe is really working for Ryan Gosling. And yeah, I'll bet really good drivers don't get really excited. This is a pretty good deconstruction of the whole Cool Racecar Driver trope. Aww...look at the UST. It's okay to like him, Irene, your husband is a deadbeat, anyway! And look how good he is with your son. Is the whole movie going to be them driving around smiling at each other? I'm...actually okay with that. Uh oh, One Last Job, huh? I think we all know what's gonna happen to deadbeat daddy. Man, this Let's Bring Back the 80's conspiracy is getting out of hand. Although this song is catchy... "real human being...real hero—" BLAM! HOLY S@#$! Did they just— BLAM! BLAM! —omigod I think I saw brains... [Murder and Shooting and More Murder] Okay. Okay. I think the worst is over. He's back with Irene. He's not gonna do anything awful in front of his Love In— OMIGOD! His FACE! Driver isn't a laconic nice guy. He's a psycho! Holy S#$%!! I thought this was Point Break With Cars, not The Godfather meets Dexter! Everybody Dies. Roll Credits.
What A Difference A Director Makes
In 2011, I read an early script for the film Drive. I wasnít entirely impressed. While it had some momentum as an action film, I couldnít understand the motivations of its anti-hero, Driver. Why would he get involved with the loser husband of the girl he coveted, Irene? The other criminals and mooks in the script came off ludicrously and chaotically. I couldnít visualize any of the characters or competently explain their actions. In addition, I thought the script was a rip off of Walter Hillís The Driver, a 1980s film about a driver (played by Ryan OíNeal) who is known only as Driver. In that film, Driver is also minimally verbal, a loner, who hires himself out to robbers on jobs that require quick getaways. He, too, has rules and if the robbers are not professional, he wonít work for them anymore. He, too, gets involved in a scheme and an equally nonverbal girl (Isabelle Adjani). The Driver delivers the car chases, however, that Drive doesnít—some of the best driving scenes ever in film that stand up even today. So, I somewhat reluctantly bought a ticket to Drive, curious after it won an award at Cannes. That day, I discovered what a difference a director can make with an ordinary script. Winding added style and vision to this film, supplying the enigmatic Driver with an acceptable motivation (rescuing Irene & her child) to explain why he takes action in the story. The soundtrack is fresh and original, in sync with characters and plot. Refn took an ordinary story and revved it up 1000%, adding scenes, character traits, and certain camera angles. The elevator scene was completely Windingís invention. What had been a bank robbery in the original script was changed to a pawn shop and that whole sequence, which marks the beginning of Driverís rampage, was masterfully handled. Although Driver is clearly somewhat mad, we do empathize with him as an anti-hero because what sets him off is his Damsel In Distress and Wouldnt Hurt A Kid. On a sliding scale of Evil, Driver is not as Evil. Winding turned Drive into a stylistic, gloriously perverted fairy tale and made me appreciate what a director can bring to a script.
A Strange, Thought-Provoking Film
I'm not sure what to think of this movie. I definitely enjoyed it, but it left me with some good ideas - and confusing ideas - about character development, moral dilemmas, and the whole concept of being a hero in both the theatrical sense and the real-world sense. This is a quiet, somewhat meditative film that wants to slowly brace you for what you are about to experience. The Driver is a relatively silent, cryptic man with simple motivations and a moral code that goes against the hyperactive preaching that I see in the protagonists of other works. He gives warnings of his intentions, however terse those warnings may be, and director Nicholas Refn does not set up the Driver to break the fourth wall and make some grandiose statement about the importance of kindness and love or anything silly like that. The Driver is a sort of "white knight" version of Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men. Both men are tranquil, silent, terrifyingly efficient, and firm in their morals, even if those morals don't make sense to anyone else with whom they interact. Gosling did a great job in his role as the Driver. The action is refreshingly conservative. Refn knows how to use tension, violence and hostility sparingly and judiciously, which is something I tend to respect in any work. Because there isn't a fight or a car chase every five minutes, you get a strong feel for the fear, danger and anger of each situation when they do appear. This is not a movie that overloads your baser senses, and it doesn't get in a such a hurry to expose its thesis. Without spoiling things, I don't think this movie is as hardcore in "certain" scenes as people made it out to be, and I've noticed that I tend to be this way toward many films, TV shows, games and such. This isn't arrogance. I just don't get as shocked as others do in presentations like Drive. I wasn't wide-eyed or cringing when certain crazy things occurred, but the aforementioned events were a definite change in pace and mood, and it definitely establishes how mean the movie is about to get. Suffice to say, the physical conflicts are economical in a good way. Don't pass this one up. It was great to watch. As a side note, check out the video game Hotline Miami. The creator was directly inspired by this movie, and it shows.