By Jeffrey Innabi
How many movies have you seen involving, oh let’s say, mobsters? How about a car chase, good guy being hunted down by the bad guy type of thing? Throw in a love interest and a few gunshots and you have your typical action thriller in the current film industry. Now take everything you know about those types of action movies and throw them out of the window, because you have never seen anything like Drive.
Let me begin by saying Drive will only appeal to a certain audience. There are many reasons for this which I will go into further, but if you expect an action packed, non-stop thrill ride with little room for character development and dramatics, then this is not your film.
Ryan Gosling plays Driver, a loner who works as a stuntman/mechanic in the daytime and a getaway driver for heists in the night. He is a man of VERY few words, rarely speaking and often delivering one word answers. He moves in next door to Irene, played by Carey Mulligan and her son Benicio. After Irene and Driver begin to take a liking to each other, she confesses to him that Benicio’s father Standard, is being released from prison within the next week. Upon meeting, Driver finds that Standard owes a debt to some people who will do anything to get their money back. Intending to keep Irene and Benicio safe, Driver agrees to help Standard pay back his debt by being his getaway driver as he robs a pawn shop. Things do not go as expected and Driver is left to pick up the pieces. This is the premise at the heart of the film.
Drive is unique film, one that is able to work on many different levels. As a romance it shines because of the on-screen chemistry between Gosling and Mulligan. As a thriller it excels with slow-moving but tense sequences. There is plenty of action in Drive, but at its heart it is meant to move the audience. You can’t help but feel sympathy for Driver when watching the film, but he never breaks, remaining calm and cool even in the most panick stricken of situations.
Nicolas Winding Refn has added plenty of gore in this film as well. Although rare when the need for self defense comes, Driver doesn’t hold back one bit. In one of the most chilling scenes in the film, he is forced to kill two men who storm his hotel room, and a shot of Driver with his face covered in blood while waiting by the door is one of the most unforgetabble images in the film. The chase scenes are also immaculately shot from both inside and outside the vehicles.
The cinematography in this film is remarkable. The soundtrack is excellent for the mood and tone the film looks to achieve, and the directing is top notch. It is not very often you run across an action thriller this good. The pace, although it may be a negative to others, is a great way to build tension and keep the intrigue and mystery fresh throughout. The fact that we as an audience know so little about Driver adds to that edge-of-your-seat feeling. When matters get thick and Driver’s patience is tested, you can never predict how he is going to react, even though he never loses his cool.
I must personally say that Drive is one of the better films I have seen in the last decade. It is definitely among the best of 2011 thus far. If you give it a chance to build and let yourself go into the world of these characters, Drive is a remarkable film with a lasting impact. It promises to be a cult classic for many many years to come.