Before experiencing the film Drive, I was not expecting anything out of the ordinary from it. I watched the trailer a couple of times, and I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from it. After the opening credits started, I realized that this would be a different film, more extraordinary than ordinary.
The opening of the Drive follows Ryan Gosling’s character, Driver, on one of his side jobs. He drives for criminals for a set amount of time, and is pretty rigorous in how he undertakes his job. He is methodical and knows every trick in the book to escape the cops in the many streets of Los Angeles. The opening also has a song called “Tick of the Clock” by the Chromatics that seems to have been made for what was happening on screen. When the job is done, the opening credits start and the audience is blasted with a series of shots that sync up to another song, “Nightcall” by Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx. The song is so otherworldly and yet reminds me of an eighties song so much. The credits also are in this hot pink cursive, also reminiscent of the eighties. Just in these first few minutes, I was already in love with this film.
Other than being a driver, Gosling’s Driver also works a day job at a car repair shop run by Shannon (Bryan Cranston). He also is stunt driver for Hollywood movies, which Shannon helps to book and run. Shannon also has some connections with “gangsters.” These wise guys are played by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman. Driver also meets his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son, after assisting them in fixing Irene’s broken down car. A relationship is forged between Irene and Driver even though Irene has a husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), who is in jail. Things get complicated when Standard returns from jail and Driver decides to help him out.
I do not want to go too in depth or too descriptive with what happens in the film. The best way to enjoy the film is to not know much about it. Skip watching the clips that are released, and do not watch the trailers too much. I probably would not have enjoyed it as much if I knew what to expect from it.
The character portrayals by all the actors are utterly fantastic. Some actors like Albert Brooks play a character completely opposite of what the audience is used to seeing them play. What the audience will notice the most is the use of silence instead of conversation between characters. A great actor does not just need lines to convey to the audience what is going on in a scene. They can physically give a performance with their body language and their eyes.
Driver is not a man of many words to begin with, but there are long silences between him and Irene. Ryan Gosling excels at silence throughout the film. Considering he does not have a lot to say in the film, his performance relies a lot on his actions. Not every actor could have been up to this task. One of the most striking things about how Gosling portrayed Driver was this air of calm about him. He was very calm in most every scene. The calm starts to break in certain stressful situations in the second half of the film. I thought perhaps he might just crack and go into a rage, but his composure was kept. The silence also helped elevate the level of tension in certain scenes. Driver required an actor that could internalize him. Ryan Gosling’s performance is exceptional, and frankly the best I have seen from him.
Many will not be prepared for the level of violence in Drive. It hits you like a ton of bricks, out of the blue. Once the film delves into the violence, it does not relent. It is not grotesque, gory, over-the-top violence, but it does come as a surprise. The level of violence that it goes to is probably not necessary, but it is something that director Nicolas Winding Refn likes to use in his films, a calling card of sorts.
The music in the film is iconic. As previously noted, it is reminiscent of eighties music with a little bit of techno mixed in. The score by Cliff Martinez complements the songs well. It all works perfectly. After seeing Drive a couple of times, the music is one of the many things I love about the film. If only a score was used or some other genre of music, the feeling of the film would have been different. This film is a great example of how the music fit the story and helped exude a sort of feeling from the audience.
I have a feeling that Drive will have a cult following. In my eyes, it is a masterpiece of art. People hear the phrase “the art of filmmaking” and do not go and see films that the phrase would apply to. Drive is a perfect example. All of the perfect elements of a film converged into Drive. I sincerely hope that the film gets what it deserves come awards season. Nicolas Winding Refn made a extraordinary film.
P.S. If you would like to hear director Nicolas Winding Refn talk about his film and delve a little deeper into it than I ever could, please see our interview with him.
I give Drive 5 “Scorpion Jackets” out of 5.