Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Genre: Drama, Action, Adventure, (Romance)
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Written by: Hossein Amini
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.
Release Date: Sept. 16, 2011

Summary: Based on the 2005 novel by James Sallis, Drive is the story of a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver. Swift and articulate with hardly a word spoken, Driver (Ryan Gosling) is perfect at his job and in keeping to himselfthat is, until he meets and falls for his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan). Driver, Irene, and Irene’s young son, Benicio (Kaden Leos), quickly form a sort of family unit— just in time for Irene’s husband to be released from prison. Although the husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), now intends to live a corruption-free life for the sake of his family, he is quickly sought out to perform a robbery by the criminals he became indebted to in prison. Because the lives of Irene and Benicio are threatened if the Standard refuses to oblige, he agrees to the heist and Driver offers to help. The job goes wrong, however, and everything spirals out of control from there.

Performances: Driver is unswervingly composed, detached from the drama around him, and is exactly the kind of character that many performers tend to overplay. Often times when actors attempt this type of role, the presentation comes across as either robotic or arrogant. Gosling’s performance, however, appears completely natural, which may be due to the fact that he never pushes the “cool guy” aspect too far. Where other actors may have shoved the role into overdrive and turned the character into something laughable, Gosling reins it in and provides the character with genuine and understated self-confidence. Early on in his career, it may have been easy to dismiss Gosling as merely a pretty face, but after witnessing his incredible performances in recent films such as Blue Valentine and Drive, there is no denying this actor’s capabilities and most certain place as one of Hollywood’s brightest stars.

Analysis: Economy is important in this movie and no time was wasted with unessential details. Cutting out extraneous dialogue and unnecessary scene content not only reflects the quickness and urgency of the film’s subject matter, but also demonstrates the director’s trust in his audience. Slow motion is often used to enhance the action portion of a film, but in this case the director uses the device to slow the story down and allow the audience to focus on the important, life changing scenes in the lives of the characters; (the scene in which Irene’s sleeping son is draped over Driver’s shoulder marks a significant change in the relationship between Driver and Irene the director, therefore, slowed the moment down to ensure that it was just as important to the audience as it was to the characters). The director's use of flashbacks keeps the audience immersed in the main parts of the film while simultaneously providing them with the backstory of each scene. When presented in this way, the additional information injects more meaning into the story than if each event was presented in succession.

Drive contains moments of extreme violence which may be off-putting to those who do not appreciate why this aspect of the story was so necessary. The first inklings of romance between Driver and Irene are sweet and simple. From the way they blissfully stare at one other with complete certainty to the meaningful way in which they first lock hands, we see a love that runs deeper than if the two had just jumped into bed together. Add to this the way that Driver cares for Irene’s young son (wanting to share with him new experiences, watching television by his side with childlike enthusiasm) and it reveals a genuine love that Driver had not experienced in his life before this time, (at least the part of his existence that we were privy to). So, maybe it is because of this extreme innocence that extreme violence is not only called for, but seems more than reasonable. Because the director adeptly made the audience feel about Irene and Benicio the way that Driver felt about them, we, too, wanted them protected at any cost. Although we, personally, may not have chosen such excessive ways in which to eradicate these people, we must remember that Driver was a part of a brutal criminal world and was acutely aware of how these people operate therefore, no chances could be taken when dealing with them. In order to defend his “family”, Driver had to revert to a fierce, primitive state and simply do what needed to be done. Hence, the violence is necessary when you consider Driver’s mentality and fundamental need to protect this pure, innocent love from the cruel outside world that would surely destroy it.

Perhaps one of the most obvious and highly anticipated aspects of the film had to do with the music that the director chose. 1970s/1980s European pop music provided a specific mood for the film and served as a sort of narrator, with the songs’ lyrics informing you of exactly what was going on in the story. The director took a chance in doing this, since, just like dialogue that is too “on the nose”, this technique might have resulted in something laughable— if not for the way that the movie was presented in the first place. Filmmakers have recently attempted to recapture ‘80s nostalgia in films, but simply throwing in a gathering of set pieces and outfits from that time period are not enough, so these films do not seem to work. What these movies lack is a grand, almost over the top feeling that must be so intricately woven into the fabric of the film that you don’t even know it’s there. That is what this movie does. Because the story possessed this larger-than-life feeling, it allowed for an exaggerated, heroic vibe that is normally only found and acceptable in ‘80s era films.

Final Wrap: In this stretch of movie history, where almost every new film is either a remake, a sequel, or based on an idea we’ve seen a thousand times, it’s great to see a movie that is actually an original concept. (Yes, the movie reflected on earlier films and characters, but it is still an original movie in its own right.) Even more amazing is when a movie presents familiar situations in a completely new light. For example, audiences have witnessed so many cops and robber car chases on film that we would never expect to actually witness one that is fresh and original, (especially when most filmmakers’ idea of improving on this concept would be to simply create bigger and louder explosions). Nevertheless, the beginning of this movie included a car chase like you’ve never seen before and from those first few minutes audiences knew that this movie was going to be something different.

The mix of original storytelling and unique style, along with a gifted cast and a most talented lead, made this a wonderful film experience and put this movie in a league all its own. Although this independent film was obviously not as widely released and extensively advertised as many of the larger blockbusters, in the long run, this iconic movie is sure to beat out the majority of current releases in going on to become a much loved cult classic.

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