Drive – Deliberate and Different

Drive – Deliberate and Different

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  1. In a Hollywood full of car chases and shootouts, you might think Drive is just another film in the long line of mindless action films.  It’s not, though.  Nicolas Winding Refn (who also directed the beautifully strange Bronson) directed Drive in 2011.  It is written by Hossein Amini (Killshot, Snow White and the Huntsman) and is based on a book by James Sallis.  The only Oscar it was nominated for was for Best Sound Editing but it picked up 42 wins in various festivals and ceremonies around the world.

    What is it about?

    Drive follows a mechanic (Ryan Gosling) who moonlights as a Hollywood stunt driver… and a wheelman.  For those of you who don’t know, a "wheelman" is just a fancy term for getaway driver.  Throughout the film people call this mechanic various things including "The Kid" and "The Driver" but never his real name.

    The Driver befriends his beautiful neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son.  When Irene’s husband, Standard (Oscar Issac), gets out of jail, though, he endangers the family because of some bad blood with local criminals.  In order to protect Irene and her son, The Driver agrees to help Standard pull a job to settle his debt.  The job goes horribly wrong, though, and The Driver must navigate the LA criminal underworld in order to save Irene and her son as well as himself. 

    Is it any good?

    Drive is different from most films you will see; especially films about heists, car chases, and the criminal underworld.  Just hearing the story of this film may lead you to believe that it’s an action packed thrill ride with explosions, revenge, double crossing, high speed chases, violence, etc.  And there is some of that but it’s a much more surreal experience than you might think.  Refn is very deliberate with the filmic elements he uses (slow motion, lighting, cinematography, etc.) as if he wants you to know it’s a film.  Most films these days try and be realistic… not Drive.  It almost over uses slow motion, involves such brutal violence that it’s borderline appalling, and seems to focus more on mood/look rather than story or entertainment.

    Another notable thing about Drive is how little The Driver actually speaks.  This is our main character and he barely says anything to anyone.  When he does speak, though, it is very deliberate (like the filmmaking itself) and to the point.  We also barely know anything about him.  It’s amazing how much we care about him, though, despite having hardly any background information about him.  I think he gains our respect because he has a code that he doesn’t budge on and because he is willing to risk his own life for a woman and her son that he barely knows.

    You might be thinking to yourself, "If Ryan Gosling barely speaks in the film, it must be an easy role to play."  If you’re thinking that, you’re wrong.  It actually makes the role more of a challenge because what most actors portray through dialogue, Gosling has to show purely through body language and subtle expressions.  And when his character does show emotion, it is so visceral and intense that it shows how good Gosling really is.

    Overall, Drive is one of the best films of 2011 but is not for everyone.  While it’s extremely well-done from a filmmaking point of view, some may consider it too slow for their tastes – especially if they come into it expecting an action film.  The brutally graphic violence may also turn some off to this film, but every detail is taken care of and the look of the film is stunning.  Add the strong acting of Gosling, Mulligan, and their support (most notably a wonderfully dark turn from Albert Brooks) and you have a breathtaking film experience.

    Nolan’s Grade:  A-

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