Drive | Review
A couple of weeks ago, while dissecting our first viewing of Rogue One , the soundtrack to Drive came on at the pub where we were having drinks. The Lord Commander immediately broke out in to a fit of seated grooving and head bobbing while a look of incomprehensible joy and swag came over him like a rush of pure cool had been injected straight into his arteries. His collar was immediately “popped”.
Without thinking, I derided him for being so in love with a movie that as far as I was concerned had nothing going for it to justify such adulation or devotion. As far as I was concerned, Drive was some 80s throwback about a driver that... drove people? And wore a silver jacket with a scorpion on the back? I don’t know.
And that was the problem. I didn’t know what this movie was about. I had heard the 10 second synopsis, wrote it off as weird and not interesting to me and in deriding the Lord Commander for loving this weird and un-interesting movie, I also broke one of my personal rules in life: if you haven’t tried it, don’t knock it.
I reflected on that later on that night and made a commitment to watch Drive, with an open mind and document my thoughts. Which I humbly submit to you here.
Drive is about a young mechanic (Ryan Gosling) that drives stunt cars for the movies by day and acts as a driver for hire for the underworld by night. His services can be paid for and procured but he has a few rules. He’ll wait for you for five minutes. If you’re late, he’s outta there. He doesn’t carry a gun, and he won’t participate in the heist/robbery/whatever it is you’re planning. But if you finish the job and get to the car within that five minutes, he’s your man. He’ll do everything he can to get you out of there safely, avoid the cops and away from the scene of the crime for a clean escape.
Gosling’s character is the silent type. So silent in fact that we never learn his name. I’m not even sure if the young, beautiful neighbour (Irene; played by Carey Mulligan) he falls in love with ever learns his name either! And it is that falling for the neighbour that sets the scene for the main conflict of the story when her incarcerated husband (named Standard and brilliantly played by Oscar Isaac) returns home and quickly falls afoul of the local mafia when they come to collect on the protection fees that he racked up while in prison.
Seeing the potential for the Standard’s debt to blow back on Irene and their young son, Gosling’s character offers to help out and act as the driver for a heist that will pay off the protection money owed - ensuring the safety of Standard and the wife Gosling’s character has fallen for. It’s a real “I didn’t go looking for trouble, trouble came looking for me” kind of vibe.
In terms of my thoughts on Drive let me say first of all: Drive is not horrible.
In fact, at times, it is downright exciting. The first scene of the movie is arguably one of the best as the Director (Nicholas Wingding Refn) cleverly plays cat and mouse with the opening heist and subsequent get away. He combines slick editing and deft turns down side streets and under bridges to build a sense of urgency and pace without borrowing from the play book of the Fast and the Furious or any other number of adrenaline pumped action movie car chase scenes.
It’s a great opening to the movie and immediately had me sitting up in my seat and engaged with the story.
However, the movie is not an indie version of the Fast and the Furious franchise and don’t expect this movie to be watched a quarter mile at a time. Much of the story focuses on Gosling’s budding romance with Irene and the building sense of entanglement with the local mafia through both the return of Standard and his protection debt and the investment Gosling’s boss (Shannon – played by Bryan Cranston) makes in him as a stock car driver in order to hit the big time.
The build-up is deliberately low key. It feels as if this movie is trying to give you the silence and space to comes to terms with what isn’t said, just as often as what is said. The problem I have with this is that at times, when the actions does happen, it feels like a jolt, and then we go back to our brooding silence again. It’s as if the pace just isn’t quite right and the movie kind of gets caught up in itself a bit.
The story culminates in the death of Standard and Shannon – all connected to the mafia and its money, enraging Gosling and ending with a meeting between him and the mafia boss. Everyone gets stabbed, including Gosling, and he drives off into the wild yonder.
You do have to be in the right frame of mind to “get” this movie because it’s not a James Bond or Fast and Furious replicant. It has very a deliberate pace and an almost “Castaway” feel to how it uses silence. Drive IS in fact an 80s throwback and sips so delicately from the retro-noir genre that it’s easy to forget that it is in fact set in the modern day. In that respect I found Drive to be compelling and visually beautiful – even if I was frustrated by the pace at times.
All in all, I liked Drive. I’m glad I watched it and found many things to commend it. I liked the retro-noir feel, I LOVED the performance by Oscar Isaac and Ryan Gosling and the opening car chase scene was fantastic in its restraint. However, the brooding silence felt like it dragged the pace down into semi-slumberous snooze zone at times and the ending felt like they copped out – would it have been more poignant for Gosling to bleed out there in the car park, rather than drive off into the sunset? Or is that in itself too much of a cliché?
To answer that question, you should watch Drive yourself.
- Lots of nods to classic Westerns.
- The opening scene is brilliantly directed.
- Christina Hendricks takes a shotgun to the head like no-one ever has!
- The casting is great – props to Gosling, Isaac, Cranston (and others!)
- It’s a different kind of pace, so you need to be in the right frame of mind.
- The ending – you decide, but for me, a bit of a cop out.