A Hollywood stuntman (Ryan Gosling) who moonlights as a getaway driver for thieves finds that a price has been put on his head after a failed robbery.
Adapted from the novel Drive by James Sellis
Soundtrack: Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Various Artists
Director Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive's main character does not have a name, he is simply known as the "Driver" (Ryan Gosling). A stuntman by trade, as well as a mechanic, Driver moonlights as a getaway driver for criminals. The opening of the film highlights such, as Driver is on the phone with a new client explaining the methods in which he works. He gives you a five-minute window, within this five-minute window he is yours, any time after or before and you are on your own. It is in your best interest then to get the job done in five minutes or less because there is no better getaway driver than Driver.
Drive is not actually a film about driving, or the reckless pursuits of a moonlighting criminal getaway driver. At the heart of the story is a romance, between Driver and a married mother, Irene (Carey Mulligan), whose husband has recently been released from prison. Refn does not fall towards the melodramatic side of this romance, he avoids such a pitfall. Instead Drive is a film motivated by love wrapped up in a tension filled thriller that never ceases to grab the viewer by the throat at every turn of the wheel, passionate kiss in an elevator, or blast of a shotgun.
Drive is every part a tragic romance, but do not let that have you believing the movie is soft. The film is incredibly rough and raw. The edges are frayed, morals questionable, and through creative filmmaking devices it is brilliant in its depravity. The performances by Gosling and Mulligan are exceptional, and even the overabundance of Gosling's forlorn staring and furrowed brow do not make the film tread towards b-movie acting campiness. Drive is incredibly serious, even when it makes you giggle at just how serious it makes itself out to be. It even includes an homage to Michael Myers near the end, and Gosling splattered with blood without ever having flinched. Drive is not a movie you watch, it is a movie you experience.
In a film with very little dialogue between the main characters Director Nicolas Winding Refn manages to convey every ounce of emotion through his incredible direction of the actors, as well as his hand in the vision of the film on screen via cinematography, editing, and the soundtrack.
Driver (Ryan Gosling) and Irene (Carey Mulligan) are neighbors who become friends out of an unlikely circumstance. As a certified loner Driver is not one for company, or conversation. When he meets Irene and her son his silent demeanor does not change but the amount of chemistry between the two characters and depth of emotion they portray on screen when together, in silence, says more than any line of dialogue ever could. Refn's direction of these fine actors elevates the dialogue lacking scenes to exponential heights as every movement of their hands, look in their eyes, glance at one another or away, gives off an illumination of conflicting passion and forbidden entanglements. Combining this with a soundtrack that exemplifies the anxiety, the fear of love, and emotional highs and lows of their situation makes every scene between the two in Drive a lesson in creating magnetism on screen.
When Refn handles the "other" part of the film, the gritty violence of a robbery gone wrong he does so with panache. The driving sequences use cinematography to the fullest extent, emphasizing the cool and calm movements of Driver behind the wheel as chaos erupts around him. When violent episodes strike the viewer, more often than not out of nowhere, it is a visual assault through the framing of the lens or sound effects. Never has watching someone get their head kicked in, to the point of the skull shattering, been so exhilarating and offensive at the same time--and the action takes place off-screen. Nicolas Winding Refn has found his stride with Drive after previous films such as Valhalla Rising and Bronson fell too far to the artistic, avante-garde, or self-absorbed. Drive balances the artistic with mainstream appeal leaving a viewer anticipating what this visionary director will create next.
For a film titled Drive there is not a great deal of driving that goes on in terms of the action. Driver (Ryan Gosling) does drive, and drive very well, to the point of leaving the viewer breathless from the tension created when the stakes of the getaway are high. Drive is more about the impact of the few, then the onslaught of many action scenes. The first half of the film is the build-up, where the romantic entanglements bloom and the pieces are laid out for what will erupt into a violent spectacle between Driver and the local mobsters Nino (Ron Perlman) and Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks). As well as a not-to-be-forgotten scene with Christina Hendricks' Blanche that will shock you out of your seat with its gratuitousness. Drive is a thrill to watch, and as the momentum grows with every minute at a tepid pace it only makes the payoff greater when action explodes on the screen; especially when you do not see it coming.
September 16, 2011