September 25, 2011

Movie Review: Drive (2011)

When I went to see Drive, I bumped into one of my friends who was working there. We had the obligatory "What are you seeing?"/"What have you seen?" conversation, which inevitably led to the mention of how Drive was. The response came back that I should be sure to drink a 5 Hour Energy if I was expecting to make it through. This kind of made me just a little bit concerned, but I had to consider the source. The man has some odd tastes. He has some interesting ideas and we sync up on a lot of films, but every once in a while we diverge wildly. I was hoping that would be the case here. Now that the movie has finished, I am happy to say that I am pretty sure I like it a good deal more than he did. What this will mean for you, I do not know, but it might help prepare you for seeing it.



Drive is an odd movie. It is one that has a seemingly straightforward plot, although it is told in a way that keeps you guessing. It presents itself as something of an action movie, but there is actually not all that much action to be found; however, when there is action, it tends to come in explosive bursts. In a way, I was reminded of the blood drenched gore of Lucio Fulci's horror output. His films have a distinct pacing to them, long stretches where not so much happens and then an over the top horror sequence. So goes Drive.

This is a movie that is not one made for wide consumption. The ubiquitous presence of Ryan Gosling of late had to have gone a long way towards getting this into theaters nationwide, and that is not a bad thing. It is just that Drive feels like the arthouse idea of an action movie. Do I wish more movies played with this sort of aesthetic? Of course. Perhaps then we would find a way to inject more interesting characters and tales into the still entertaining, if somewhat staid action market. What it comes down to is that when I compare my reaction to that of my friend who saw it before me you will find wildly divergent ideas of the film's success. Furthermore, you will probably recognize that with this movie, no one is going to be right.


There are movies that you love for obvious reasons and when you encounter someone who doesn't care for it, it is rather hard to comprehend why they don't. With Drive, you have a movie that you either love or hate and the very reasons you do are the reasons they don't. It is an interesting phenomenon. If it means anything more than that, I don't know.

The movie opens with an intense set piece showing just what it is the Driver (Ryan Gosling). He is the getaway driver for bad guys. It is not easy work and it involves plenty of timing, strategy, and driving skill. This initial sequence is tense and may just be the best bit in the movie. Following this opening we follow along with the unnamed Driver. We learn that he works as a stunt driver, works at a garage, and could be getting a shot at driving race cars. This is all on top of his work as a getaway driver for jobs set up by his friend, Shannon (Bryan Cranston), who runs the garage. Aside from his work, Driver doesn't seem to do much. On top of that, scarcely says anything. He is a man of few words.

The story picks up on two fronts, which are all but assured of coming to an explosive head when they cross paths. On one hand, Driver makes friends with his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her young son. She is not a single mother, just one whose significant other will be getting out of prison soon. They strike up an intriguingly platonic relationship as Driver plays surrogate husband/father. On the other side of the coin, Shannon goes to a couple of mobsters (Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman) to get funding for the racing proposition.


The stories come closer to crossing as Irene's man comes home and is being forced to do a job. Driver, nice guy that he is, gets involved to help in what turns out to be a double cross. I will not go further, for fear of giving something away that I shouldn't. Suffice to say, everyone is involved and it is not clear that anyone will be able to get away free and clear.

Drive is a stylish film that seems to be unstuck in time, somewhere it exists in a cross between the 1980's and the present day. It feels like an 80's era film. I am not sure why, it just does, with the style of the soundtrack, some of the clothing choices, it feels just a little retro. I also quite like the quite, purposefully paced fashion in the way it unfolds itself. It is a movie of looks, glances, the things left unsaid, and the occasional release of some blood.

I have yet to determine if this is supposed to be a comment n anything, but I do like what it is. It has a certain noirish quality, passed through a little Eastwood styled spaghetti western, yet it still feels like its own thing. Ryan Gosling is excellent as the lead, quiet, charismatic and no nonsense. We may not know a lot about him, but we know a lot about him. It is fascinating to watch that line play out on the big screen.

Drive is definitely one to see n the big screen. The contrasting of characters, the revelation of motivations, the impressive bloodshed (not that there is a lot, but what is there is pretty great), and just the fact that it is different than pretty much anything on the big screen is enough to make this a winner. Still, we are fortunate that it is more than just counter-programming to the Hollywood mainstream.

Highly Recommended.


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