Film Review – Drive
I will begin by saying that I am listening to the soundtrack album for this movie as I type this. The music in this film is an organic part of the film in a way I haven’t seen in a long while. The synth-pop, post-neo industrial work of Cliff Martinez is quite amazing sets the tone for one of the most transcendent films in recent memory. Director Nicholas Winding Refn directs his first film to find widespread distribution in America and shows why he’s been gathering acclaim for his work on films like Bronson, which provided a launching pad for star Tom Hardy who is taking off big time as well. Refn’s last film, Valhalla Rising, (which I reviewed HERE) did not entirely win me over but there were promising elements there that were present in Bronson as well that I figured would translate well to a film like Drive and I was right. This is a fantastic film that shows clear vision in its craft of drama, tension, and style. Refn shoots Los Angeles with sort of detached, vivid beauty that rivals the work of Michael Mann or William Friedkin in their prime. There are plenty of comparisons to be drawn to films like Thief and To Live and Die in LA but there is also a sort of post-millennium European sensibility to Refn’s direction that sets it apart from those films as well. The direct and nonchalant handling of violence and the tension leading up to it give the film a unique sense of texture. Some will fault the film for its pacing, which has a lot of somber contemplation that allows for the rise of tension in between random bouts of visceral violence.
Make no mistake, Refn is a director’s director and he has made a film for people who understand the nuances of film. This is the sort of movie where you suddenly become aware of the fact that you are holding your breath because you know that the tension is reaching the point where it has to snap, and just when you find yourself at that moment, Refn delivers something cathartic and raw. There were audible gasps of shock and awe from the audience at my showing, something that does not happen all too often. It’s a testament to the craft behind a movie like this.
Ryan Gosling does well as the brooding nameless Driver who exudes a tender vulnerability masking a violent streak that has to be seen to be believed. It’s well known that Gosling is one of the fastest rising young talents in Hollywood and watching this film it is easy to see why. The rest of the cast is equally phenomenal. Albert Brooks steals the show as a ruthless mob type who doesn’t exactly conform to any true stereotype and in another movie would have been viewed through a completely different lens. Ron Perlman plays Ron Perlman well. Carey Mulligan doesn’t have much to do but has a presence on screen that cannot be denied. Simply by gazing into her eyes you can understand why Gosling’s character becomes so obsessed with her.
I would strongly urge you to check it out. It’s a slow burn, but it’s like watching a synth-pop piece of artwork in motion. You’ll thank yourself later.
I’ve embedded the song “A Real Hero” by College feat. Electric Youth here as it is used quite effectively in the film and I cannot get it out of my head. I wish to inflict this on you.