Movie #326 Drive
(2011, US, d. Nicolas Winding Refn)
A lot of people will love this movie but a lot of people will hate it as well. And considering the number of rave reviews this film has gotten thus far, it’s easy to go in with the mentality you will love this movie. But it’s a very unique picture. And for the reasons that qualify it as such a unique film are the same reasons for me calling it one of the most powerful and tonally-consistent films of 2011. First of all, despite the R rating and trailers cut up to make it appear as if Drive is some sort of independent answer to the Fast and Furious campaign, this is not the case. Drive is a psychological film, a quiet film, and an existential film. It does not answer any questions. Hell it barely raises any. In fact, despite the regular script with a regular amount of dialogue, actors Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, and director Nicolas Winding Refn decided that dialogue goes completely against the core beings of some of the lead characters and let go with any real verbal interactions. What we have from there is more of a moody piece. Something that challenges us to read between the lines, study the eyes of Gosling (an incredible performer), and the smile of Mulligan. It is a complex film that brings into light some very serious issues, all the while raising the tension with a slowly boiling subplot that soon takes over the third act. This is where the violence kicks in. It may feel random and even excessive to some audience members, but it has always had to be this way. Refn creates such a unique and retro tone to this film, through use of music and truly inspired lighting, as well as the character of Driver (Gosling) – a stunt driver for movies by day, driver by night – that violence was the only answer to this film. But this extremely graphic violence serves a purpose. We don’t see a man’s head literally being crushed to create a cheap effect – it is for juxtaposition, it is for style, irony, and substance. Such is the case with Drive. One may make no sense out of it all. That’s valid: We never learn anything out of the main character. But there is incredible craft behind this film: a careful process of creativity and the most difficult task a film can accomplish – a consistent tone. Refn does this, and he does it with incredible flair. Drive is a film that will be looked back upon in a few years as raising a new voice and tone in filmmaking. It’s a wonderfully existential piece that challenges us to go along for a drive with the main character, thought we may never know who he is and what he really is up to.