I had heard good things about Drive from my film major friends in college before I found this on Netflix. I was hesitant at first, (most kids at my college in the film department have very particular ideas of what good films are. I like what is considered not so good of a film.) but gave it a shot. My girlfriend fell asleep about 20 minutes in (she was tired from work) but I sat up enraptured in what unfolded before me in this film. In a whole new way, Nicolas Winding Refn created a film you wouldn’t normally see ever.
So there’s Ryan Gosling playing The Driver, a quiet and modest stunt driver who has grown up in L.A. on cars. (This is based on James Sallis’ novel, Drive.) Securing Hollywood stunt driver jobs through his friend Shannon (Bryan Cranston of Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad), we see a film about Hollywood within L.A.’s
Hollywood. Directed by a Danish director, we gain this insight from a foreigner’s perspective in a unique way of directing and cinematography. But, more importantly, this film has got some major production value on it with all the researching and immersed creation that came with it between Refn and Gosling. I was impressed.
So The Driver meets Irene (Carey Mulligan) a tragic and beautiful single mother with a husband in jail. They have a solemn and quiet love affair (no sex or anything like that, Refn didn’t want to waste film time on showing anything related to love… I think…) the two connect. The Driver wants to protect Irene and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos). And then her husband Standard Gabriel (Oscar Isaac) comes back. Getting involved with the wrong people, gangsters on all sides, The Driver has to navigate a world he’s only seen in the movies. And, being a stunt actor in a movie, he’s prepared to make the leap. With a car.
I really liked all the characters in this movie. Plain and simple. I loved Oscar Isaac’s small role in the film. He comes off as this dangerous and irritated character that has a sneaking suspicion at all times. (He reminded me of his twisted
performance in Sucker Punch.) Bryan Cranston played a great broken man in this film who’s trying to look out for others but becomes collateral damage. Ron Perlman was finally given a chance to do a spectacular movie that gave him great lines and a menacing character in this one as well. Looks like Hellboy’s becoming more devilish… And
one of the standout performances, other than Ryan Gosling, comes from Albert Brooks, voice of Nemo’s dad in Finding Nemo. To hear that voice on such a wicked character was chilling.
But there were a lot of interesting elements in the creation of this movie. The script is about 80 pages, but most of it must have been camera direction and actions, because I would say there’s less than 5 to 10 typed pages of dialogue in the whole film. Ryan Gosling plays such a reserved and quiet character that he never really needs to speak, only act (just like a hired driver would). The first sequence in the film when Gosling is driving the two robbers to their destination was well planned out and quite poetic in its feel and delivery. No dialogue, no need for speech, only action.
Without much dialogue, the film had this feel of tension throughout. You feel tension in the relationships, in the way the business is conducted. And then you get the gunshots. Every once in a while in the film the action builds to this ridiculously tense crescendo where something has to happen. Almost like a jumpy
scene in a horror movie. And wow, after that first gunshot in the movie, this film really pops off (pun intended). But then it returns to a tension filled lull (still not much dialogue) and you’re just waiting for the next powder keg laden with the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s agonizing at the same time that it’s so damn interesting!
You get great performances with a great premise delivered more with action than with speech. It’s a unique style you never really see, and I’m glad this did well at film festivals. This reminds me, and I don’t know why, but it makes me wanna watch Refn’s other work, most notably Val Halla Rising, which is now on Netflix. Next review here I come! But Drive is a wonderful film. Superb in all its unusual aspects. 9.5 out of 10.