Jim Reviews Drive


Have you ever gone to the video store with no real idea of what you want to watch and just wandered until something caught your eye? Not a new release, but a catalogue movie hidden deep within the stacks of forgotten film. Maybe it’s one of those movies from your childhood that you’ve meant to watch but just never got around to and you decide to give it a go. Then you get home and put it on and are greeted by a wave of nostalgia. Remember when movies looked like that? Remember when action scenes were shot that way, or opening credits looked like that, or the music that sounded like it did, or any number of other things that transport you back to years ago?

That is what I felt like watching “Drive.” Right off the bat I felt like I was watching a movie Michael Mann directed in the mid 80’s and just forgot about until this year. This film is quiet, moody, exquisitely shot, and captures the visual and emotional aesthetic of my childhood.

The story is simple; Ryan Gosling is a stunt driver who sidelines as a getaway driver. He has a code (You don't need to know the route. You give me a time and a place, I give you a five minute window. Anything happens in that five minutes and I'm yours. No matter what. Anything happens a minute either side of that and you're on your own.), he has a small circle of trusted allies, and he does not venture one step outside of either one.

Until he does… and then things get complicated.

I could go on, but I won’t. Needless to say, there is nothing more dangerous than a man with a code who gets pushed too far.

What I find most beautiful is that this is a movie that someone filed a lawsuit over. A woman tried to sue because:

– Drive was promoted as very similar to Fast and Furious, when in actuality, it wasn’t.

Drive bore very little similarity to a chase, or race action film, for reasons including but not limited to Drive having very little driving in the motion picture.” (emphasis mine)

That’s right, for some reason a person tried to sue because a movie wasn’t ENOUGH like Fast and Furious. I have always thought the opposite would be more appropriate. However…

“Drive” is an outstanding movie, but I can completely understand someone not loving it, unless it is for the reason above. It’s has a very measured pace, there is a lot of silence, and it doesn’t follow a traditional hero’s journey. It’s about an uncomplicated man with uncomplicated goals who has to deal with complications.

To simplify, this movie is the child of Michael Mann’s “Thief” (the visual style and some character elements), Walter Hill’s “The Driver” (narrative and character elements), and Jean-Pierre Mellville’s “Le Samourai,” (overall style and feel). If you know of and like any of these films, then you will probably enjoy “Drive,” and vice versa.

The best way to sum it up is to say that this film isn’t what you expect. Even if you think you know, you really don’t. It’s measured and brutal, but quiet and tender at the same time. It is technically brilliant (the lighting and shot composition are jaw dropping), the acing is… I don’t even know where to begin. I could not name the best performance in this. Gosling is unbreakably solid as “Driver,” Bryan Cranston shows why he is an Emmy factory as Gosling’s mentor/agent, Albert Brooks upends every expectation you have for him as the brutally efficient crime boss, Ron Pearlman takes his creepy asshole character to another level, and Carey Mulligan provides enough innocent kindness to offset the brutality of Gosling’s world.

Nicolas Winding Refn is a master of atmosphere. His earlier works (“Valhalla Rising,” and “Bronson”) are clinics in measured pacing and immersive mood. With “Drive” he takes his work in a different direction and does so with incredible mastery. His movies are not for everyone; he makes measured, moody films that breathe and give you time to think. If this sounds good, then check it out. If not, be forewarned and don’t try to sue anyone.


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