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September 18, 2011

Initially going into Drive I was blissfully unaware of what I was getting myself in to. I was unaware of its plot, its stars or even its director, in fact all I knew was that my long time crush and future husband Ryan Gosling was starring in it and based on that alone I knew whatever the turnout was Drive would be an enjoyable film. Well lo and behold Gosling has yet to disappoint me as his mere presence in a film is nearly always that little stamp of approval that it will atleast be an above average film (except for Lars and the Real Girl… seriously what’s up with that film?). Director Nicholas Whining Refn creates a film that is artsy, gritty and unique while still being a classic tale of heist gone wrong. Refn treats Drive delicately and tenderly making for an impressive work of art that sticks with you long after the credits stop rolling.

Ryan Gosling stars as Driver, a stunt driver in films by day and getaway driver for thieves by night. Driver is good at what he does, so good that his friend and boss Shannon (Bryan Cranston) signs him up to be a race car driver sponsored by mobsters Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman). When he’s not doing heart racing pedal to floor driving throughout the day, Driver lives a relatively quiet life spending his time in solitude fixing car parts. However, as night falls his hobbies entail being the driver for various thieves looking for a quick, clean getaway. He has only a few rules; you get five minutes to do your dirt, anything before or after doesn’t concern him just as long as you’re in his car within those five minutes he’s your man. If not, you’re on your own.

Driver soon meets and befriends his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), a married waitress with a son Benicio (Kaden Leos) whom Driver begins developing close relationships with until Irene’s husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), is released from jail and returns home. Instead of leaving his new found sense of comfort, Driver stays around befriended Standard and agreeing to help him in one last robbery to clear his name and keep Irene and Benicio safe from Standards out of prison “debt collectors.” However, when things don’t go according to plan Driver must deal with the dominoing mess that happens right before his eyes.

Drive isn’t perfect despite what the high accolades from critics via Rotten Tomatoes may lead audiences to believe. The character development is the film’s most crippling aspect as well as its pacing. Carey Mulligan as Irene could have been played by a blow-up doll and the film would still have the same emotional punch. Mulligan’s character is just there and basically a prop at times. There are no genuine moments delivered by her nor personality or life. It was pretty difficult to understand why Driver cared so much for her especially considering that his most tender moments happened between him and Benicio. That’s not to say that Mulligan’s portrayal was underwhelming however, the flaw comes from faulty writing.

Also the first half of the film is rather slow and bland as the development and links between characters are built. I give kudos to screenwriter Hosseni Amini for adapting a non-linear story of a character that speaks about 20 sentences in the novel to fit for the screen as well as for attempting to build relationships to give the audience allegiance with the lead, yet that doesn’t mean that Amini does it well. Some scenes of little development receive the most screen time while scenes that could have pleasantly given audiences a better understanding of characters and their relationships with one another are only delivered in short montages.

However, Refs keen directorial eye makes Drive a film that is physically immaculate and performances from Gosling and Brooks are so inciting and engaging that the film’s weaknesses seem like minor hiccups in the scheme of things. Both Driver and Bernie are virtually polar opposites but possess enduring and menacing qualities. Whether you can stomach the brutal gore or even slow and at times poorly developed parts or not you can’t help but appreciate the beauty of how the film comes together and how smoothly it runs. Refn’s use of tight close-ups and fluid tracking shots make for incredible moments of tension building and action that makes you hold your breath in anticipation of its outcome. The film is beautifully magnetizing as everything from the lighting to framing of scenes are picturesque and relationships seem to be built on close-ups and rule of thirds framing alone.

Drive’s flaws are light scratches on the interior of a 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air. They don’t matter when watching the film because overall it’s just so damn good. The action is sleek, gory and realistic yet the story is a classic tale of a heist gone wrong. Drive is something new and fresh while also being an homage to heist and car films of yesteryears. Everything about Drive ties in well and works even the awkwardly cheesy 1980s font on the opening and closing credits and the pumped up airy 80s themed soundtrack that convinced me Molly Ringwald would pop on screen at any given moment. It’s pretty much a given that if Ryan Gosling’s pretty face makes an appearance in a film then it’s worth seeing.

SEE IT. And wear a windbreaker, you will be blown away.

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  1. Hugo « The Cinephiliac

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