MOVIE REVIEW: Drive
By Anonymous on 19 Sep
You get 5 minutes. He doesn't care who your robbing; or what your doing. You tell him where to pick you up, where to drop you off. He doesn't come in for the job, and he doesn't carry a gun. You get in the car; he takes care of the rest. On his time off he's a stuntman for the movies. His name is Driver. He drives.
"Drive" is a perfect storm of Hollywood. I sincerely cannot comprehend how the film got made save for some incredible trust from the producers in the extremely eccentric aesthetic choices made by the crew. Everything about it is audacious: the title cards done in a pink 80's font reminiscent of early Michael Mann films, it's unabashed feminine streak (shown in devoting large patches of time to straight-faced scenes of romantic frolicking), it's expressionistic lighting plots (which change without explanation by the second), it's electro pop soundtrack.
Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (probably best known for "Bronson", an out-of-control satire that made Tom Hardy's name before he hooked up with Christopher Nolan, though his doc-style "Pusher" trilogy and expressionistic "Valhalla Rising" are also more than worth watching) gives us his most precise film yet, matching the cool persona of star Ryan Gosling. His long takes linger for many a silent moment on Driver; allowing Gosling to give the best performance of the year with nary a fistful of dialogue. The 80's tint layered over the film evaporates into a noir-styled bloodbath as Driver's mind and actions become more and more debased; solidifying once and for all that the precision of the film is matching the precision of our character.
And this all works because of the people Refn surrounds Driver with. The supporting performances here could not be any better, everyone bringing something to this ‘fairy tale' Refn has crafted. If Driver is the White Knight then Carey Mulligan's character Irene is his princess; and though their sexual connection may be tenuous at best you never wonder for a second why he risks everything to protect her. Like the stories of yore, Mulligan's beautiful visage and quiet demeanor explains everything you would need to know about Driver's motivations. It takes serious acting chops to play an alluring character with such subtlety, but Mulligan reveals she has those in spades.
Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman also give awards-worthy performances as our villians, a producer (of action movies that "critics called European", in one of the films many self-aware, ‘celebration of cinema' moments) and a Jewish pizzeria owner, respectively. They announce their evil intentions the first time we meet them, like true fairy tale villains ("How do you know he's a bad guy?" Driver asks to Irene's son while they watch a cartoon. "You just know," He says. I don't think they were really talking about the cartoon) and their vicious performances live up to such hype. And this is all offset brilliantly by Bryan Cranston as Driver's boss, who reads very line with a fatherly intonation that tells you everything you need to know about the two's relationship.
Honestly, to give anything away about this story would be offensive; this is a film you deserve to go into blind. Not that there are any huge surprises; but Refn uses the fact that he is playing around with film archetypes to stage shocking scenes of brutal violence and then follow them directly with long patches of silence and contemplation (there's the "European" influence into this film that Brooks previously mentioned.) And while Refn gleefully messes with meta-touches by allowing his character to utilize ‘movie magic' (like world-class makeup, for example) against his enemies, his true interest lies in themes as complex as the connection between sex and violence (a daring topic that should be at the forefront, but seems off limits to most filmmakers.) We see how Driver's relationship with Irene shifts him from a cool mannered man living by a code (not unlike Alain Delon in "Le Samourai", a definite influence here) into a psychotic monster capable of doing anything to protect her. And Refn is always most interested in the scenes where this transformation is taking place.
"Drive" really could not be any better. The acting is impeccable, the action is not only reserved but magnificently photographed (look out for some classically framed ‘camera on the ground shots' right out of "The French Connection"), and the electro-pop soundtrack captures something about Driver's character that cannot be put into words. Nicolas Winding Refn was born to make movies about tough guys with toothpicks in their teeth, and Ryan Gosling was born to play those roles. Bring on "Drive II".
5/5 SOLO CUPS
REVIEW BY JAKE MULLIGAN