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Drive Movie Review

Drive (2011)

Rent Drive on Amazon Video (paid link) // Buy the book
Written by: Hossein Amini (screenplay), James Sallis (book)
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Brayn Cranston, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman
Rated: R
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A mysterious Hollywood stuntman and mechanic moonlighting as a getaway driver finds himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbor.

This movie has such a cool vibe. The composition and imagery is impressive, while the music and style give it a very ’80s feel. This has a great soundtrack, provided you like synth. The focus on visuals supersedes dialog as there’s a lot of silence even when characters are on screen. Story is conveyed by looks instead of exposition. The story is solid, not great, but the way it’s told as it slowly builds this enigmatic character with so little dialog really sets this apart. It’s just cool, and a big reason is how this avoids the typical style.
Watch It.

Winding Refn has a certain style, eschewing dialog for visuals sometimes at the expense of accessibility. That may be best balanced in Drive. That’s my favorite of his films with Only God Forgives taking the style too far and The Neon Demon going for a less than subtle allegory. Valhalla was the first Refn film I saw. It is not a typical movie which is why I found it intriguing. There’s very little dialog on Valhalla.

Great soundtrack! I don’t buy many soundtracks. Only two movies have caused me to buy a soundtrack, Drive  and Inside Llewyn Davis.

Ryan Gosling plays the Driver.

Visually this is awesome. Winding Refn’s films invest a lot of energy in composition and it shows. He and/or his cinematography have a great eye. The first scene is the setup for the Driver (Ryan Gosling). He wants a plain and inconspicuous car. It’s a great choice for a car when you want to blend in. This leads into the chase scene. It’s a reserved chase, though there’s an ebb and flow to the scene as Driver attempts to avoid the cops. It culminates in realizing why he was listening to the basketball game. He’s a professional.

The next scene provides a moment of confusion when we see the Driver in a police uniform. He’s not a cop, just a stunt driver. From the beginning there’s not much dialog in the movie, and it doesn’t need it. It’s easy to see what characters are thinking. Driver keeps to himself, avoiding neighbors, but he hesitates at the store. We don’t know why until the camera shifts to reveal his neighbor Irene (Carey Muilligan) with car trouble. He helps her, but we know that’s atypical.

Refn likes long shots. Most of the shots are silent, but it does give actors time to emote and the audience a chance to ascribe emotions whether present or not. Much of the Driver and Irene’s interactions are non-verbal but we see the connection. The movie is focused and deliberate. Many movies get caught up in trying to explain everything or trying to impress with clever writing and this does so much with so little dialog. Each scene builds to the end as we see just how capable the Driver is, be it behind the wheel or becoming violent.

The Driver is mysterious. We don’t learn much about his past, but it becomes ever clearer that he’s familiar with criminal activities and has had to hold his own before. The fact that he’s an enigma makes him fascinating. Meeting Standard (Oscar Isaac) marks the turn in the movie where Driver gets in too deep. His first interaction with Standard makes him seem dopey or naive, but the next scene removes any doubt of that. There’s a continuous push and pull in this movie as it plays with our expectations and what would normally be included in a movie like this.

Carey Mulligan and Ryan Gosling play Irene and the Driver.

If you’ve seen this movie you know the elevator scene. It’s a combination of Driver realizing the futility of his situation and what he wants out of the future. The situation he’s found himself in may never end. He tries to get himself clear, but just as the kingpins know they have to erase all traces of their crimes, the Driver knows it too as soon as they refuse his offer to return the money.

The Driver references the fable of the scorpion and the frog. A scorpion asks a frog for help across the river. Hesitant the frog helps, but the scorpion stings the frog anyway and they both drown. It’s just in some people’s nature to harm others at their own expense. The Driver wears a scorpion emblazoned jacket, but he isn’t the scorpion. He’s only been defensive, and he knows how to defend himself.

I love the final scene of the movie. The Driver made a big sacrifice, turning his life upside down. You kind of wonder if he’s always been running in and out of towns.

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