Friday, November 4, 2011

Drive (2011)

Title: Drive (2011)

Director: Nicholas Winding Refn

Cast:  Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman


Drive is a film that appeals to the senses in more ways than your regular run of the mill commercial film. Nicholas Winding Refn is that rare filmmaker that knows how to make you feel with his images, something that seldom happens when watching the latest Hollywood summer blockbuster for example. With a lot of those films, even though they try, in the end most commercial films are a lot of flash, a lot of action, but no feeling, no emotion. Not so with this latest Nicholas Winding Refn film, Drive aims to please the eyes as well as the heart. But don’t mistake this one for a film without any ‘cojones’, because it’s got a lot of those too! When Drive has too, it can get damn graphic and violent! 

Drive is all about a nameless man who earns a living as a stunt driver for the movies. But that’s just his day job, during the nighttime he gets paid for driving criminals in and out of their heists. Eventually, word gets around about his driving skills, and so mobsters want to use him, so they can make good money off of his driving skills. At the same time, the mysterious Nameless Driver falls for his lonely next door neighbor, whose husband just so happens to be away in jail. So she’s a lonely parent, raising her kid on her own. One day, her husband finally gets out of jail and returns to live with her. He tries living a ‘normal’ life, but being good and normal just isn’t in this guys genes. You see, the husband owes money to some thugs, and these thugs have gone as far as threatening his wife and kid if he doesn’t pay up. What will the Nameless Driver do about this? Will he selfishly walk away from the situation, or will he help his babealicious neighbor find the money to pay the debt that her husband owes the mob?

Nicholas Winding Refn has amazed me with each and every one of his films. I’ve only seen three so far: Bronson (2008), which is a film about the most famous convict in England and Valhalla Rising (2009), a trippy film about a barbarian who gets stranded in a strange new land filled with deadly natives who don’t exactly take kindly to strangers. And now Drive a simple, yet visually poetic film. Refn has so far proven himself to be the kind of director who places a lot emphasis on the visuals, and what they can evoke. There are moments in Drive where the main character doesn’t talk for long periods of time; he simply drives around town, taking in the lights, the sights and sounds of the big bad city landscape. He doesn’t talk, but you kind of get an idea of what he is thinking, or maybe you come up with your own idea of what’s going through his head. Point is, the silent scenes evoke some sort of response out of you even though nothing is said. In this way, these long moments of silence work like the silent films of the past. A lot can be said through visuals and performance alone and Drive does it exquisitely.

This strong silent type of character is nothing new to Refn who had a similar character in his previous film, Valhalla Rising. On that film we meet a character called ‘One Eye’, a barbarian character who very rarely spoke. In fact, he had a kid tagging along beside him that spoke for him as some sort of ‘Jiminy Cricket’ or something. With Drive, you can expect a film that exploits it’s moments of silence to the fullest, Refn uses yet again a strong silent character to tell his story. The Nameless Driver brings to mind Clint Eastwood’s legendary Man With No Name from all those spaghetti westerns he made. In those westerns, The Man With No Name , never spoke much and he was never a squeaky clean character. He was always walking the fine line between savior and bandit. The same can be said of the Nameless Driver in Drive. Here, we meet a lonely type of character, but one that is focused and knows exactly what his doing and why.

Drive is a film that has many influences attached to it. Like a Tarantino film that draws from many others that came before it, Drive draws a lot of it’s awesomeness from equally great films of the past. It has a bit of Bullit (1968), The Driver (1978), Le Samourai (1967), and by Refn’s own admission The Day of the Locust (1975). These are all a bunch of films that I will definitely be looking into in the next few months, just to see where Drive came from. With a title like Drive, a lot of people where probably expecting something along the lines of the Fast and the Furious movies, when in reality, Drive could not be further from those formulaic action flicks. Though it does have about two cool chase sequences, I don’t consider Drive to be action flick at all. It’s more of an introspective piece, almost entirely focusing on its one main character. One look at this film and you immediately know it’s not going to be your regular run of the mill pop corn flick. I mean, two of the production houses that joined to make this film are called “Odd Lot” and “Bold Films” so right off the bat we know were going to be in for something that thinks outside of the proverbial box.

Drive feels like a film both from the 70’s and 80’s. The credits are in pink neon letters, obviously as homage to films from the 80’s. The music in the film has a real retro-feel to it; the synthesizers make it sound like something straight out of the 80’s club scene, but interestingly enough the songs were all recorded post 2007, so it’s a deliberately retro soundtrack. By the way, this is the kind of soundtrack you’ll want to make a permanent part of your collection. Most of it is abstract music that sets the mood for the well orchestrated visuals. And man, this is one of those movies that perfectly matches both music and visuals. There’s a scene in which the Nameless Driver is silently driving around town, and he’s gone through a lot of shit, and this song plays in the background. The song is called “A Real Hero” by Johnny Jewel. Wow, that song perfectly picks up what the film is all about. Behind all its car chases, and shoot outs and Italian gangsters, this is really a film about a good guy trying to survive in an imperfect world. About a person who is struggling to do what is right, to be a real human being, a hero. To feel and love and care. And even though in the end, the Nameless Driver doesn’t seem to be destined to live “the good life” at least he tries.

Rating: 5 out of 5   



Jack L said...

Terrific review!

I really liked this film, one of the best of the year for me.

Refn is definitely a director whose work I'll be paying attention to know, after seeing most of his films I think he's one of the best of his generation.

Franco Macabro said...

Glad you liked the review Jack, this movie was an experience for me, I tend to appreciate films that go for an emotional response, and Drive was going for exactly that.

I need to check out Refn's Pusher trilogy, I read your reviews on them and I'm looking forward to checking them out.

Refn is currently working on the Logan's Run remake, that should be interesting. I reviewed the original a while back, I enjoyed it for the most part, but it is definetly a dated film in terms of special effects, now there's a film that could benefit from getting remade.

Thanks for commenting!


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