Review: Drive

Ryan Gosling in Drive

I don’t sit in while you’re running it down. I don’t carry a gun. I drive.

Inspired by ouevre of Michael Mann, Drive is economical in its story and its characters, in an age of cinema where bigger is better Nicholas Winding Refn has created a love letter to 80s crime movies like Thief and To Live and Die in LA.

Much of the film’s success is down to Refn’s direction and Ryan Gosling’s performance as the distant Driver. It’s a slow-paced film with little action and small, sharp bursts of bloodletting. Drive is a film that comes close to being too much style over substance. Nonetheless the style showcased here makes for a dreamy fairy tale that’s lit in neon and is more memorable for the moods it evokes than anything it says, or, in the case of Driver, doesn’t say.

Drive opens in the midst of night-time robbery, setting the film’s mood of the film and its lead character. Gosling’s Driver is unflappable, defined by his consummate ease and lack of worry. He only speaks when he has something to say, which is a microcosm of the film as a whole. It barely wastes a moment on conveying how Driver’s life implodes after he tangles with his next door neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) and ‘businessman’ Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks).

Brooks is best known for his comedic work, but he uproots that image here with an uncompromising gangster who, like other characters, is economical in his actions, exposing any weaknesses in the people he meets.

Like the cars that Driver mends and drives, Refn’s film is a polished one. Thomas Newton Siegel’s natural lighting of scenes help ground it and the electronic score from composer Cliff Martinez works well too. Like those films made before the inception of CGI, Drive has a cast-iron focus on character and tone and not action and explosions.

Drive isn’t an easy film to describe or pigeon-hole (Neo-noir? Western? Fairy tale!?) but it is full of fantastic sequences and a terrific soundtrack. Refn’s previous films were a little dull and opaque, but here he strikes a more interesting combination of tone and aesthetic. Drive is the type of to watch and get lost in.

8/10

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Posted on 06/03/2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Just watched this for the first time last night after a long time waiting for it to arrive from Lovefilm. Definitely a bit style over substance but still very cool and when the style looks this good, sounds this good and is backed up by a pretty thrillling, sexy story, I can’t complain! Not the best of 2011 but still wish they’s more movies as cool, gripping and gorgeous as this! Nice review!

    • First time I watched I thought it was a little ‘too cool for school’. Watching it a few times more it became a film that just sort of envelops you. I think its Refn’s best film out of the ones i’ve seen (not seen Valhalla Rising or The Pusher trilogy)

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