Entertainment Magazine

At Home: Drive

Posted on the 06 March 2012 by Desertofreel @Kob_Monney

Ryan Gosling in Drive

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

Inspired (you would think) by Michael Mann’s crime opuses, Drive is economical in its story and its characters, surprising in an age of cinema where bigger is better and loud noises and explosions are more attractive than a deft, moody homage to 80s crime movies like Thief and To Live and Die in LA.

A lot of that is down to Nicholas Winding Refn’s direction and Ryan Gosling’s performance as the distant, enigmatic Driver (joining a list of characters with that name). It’s slow, with little action and small, sharp bursts of bloodletting. Watching Drive in the cinemas I thought it was a little too much style over substance. I still think that’s the case. Nonetheless the style showcased here makes for a dreamy (yup, that’s right), neon lit ride that’s more memorable for the moods it evokes than anything it says, or, in the case of Driver, doesn’t say.

Drive drops the viewer in the midst of night-time robbery and if you know anything about screenwriting, then you’ll know that the first scene invariably sets the mood of the film and the sets up the character. Gosling’s Driver is unflappable and cool, defined by his distinct lack of exertion or trace of worry on his face. He only opens his mouth when he has something of interest to say and that kind of action (or inaction) is a microcosm of the film as a whole. It barely wastes a moment on conveying how Driver’s life implodes after he meets his next door neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), how that interaction meshes with her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) and gangster/businessman Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks).

Brooks is probably best known for his comedic work (Weeds, Finding Nemo, The Simpsons) but he uproots that image here with an uncompromising gangster who, like many other characters in the film, is economical in his actions, choosing his moment to strike and exposing any perceived weaknesses in the people he meets.

Like the cars that Driver mends and, well… drives, Refn’s film feels polished. Several licks of paint in the form of Thomas Newton Siegel’s natural lighting of scenes and some nice electronic, wispy sounds from composer Cliff Martinez in his score (especially in the backstage club scene). It’s like those films made before CGI, y’know, the ones that focused on character and tone rather than suspension of disbelief and cacophonous explosions.

Drive isn’t an easy film to describe or pigeon-hole (a neo-noir? Western? A fairy tale!?) but it is full of fantastically shot sequences (the beach scene is terrific) and a soundscape that’s hardly noticeable until it makes its presence known in an unequivocal manner.  Refn’s previous may have been a little too dull and opaque but here he strikes a more interesting combination of tone and aesthetic. The kind of film you could watch again and again.



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