What happens when you mix an art-house movie with an action thriller? Drive.
Drive stars Ryan Gosling as a professional driver. He drives for movie stunts, for criminal getaways, and fixes cars with what time he has left. He knows cars better than people. His character is remarkably placid for someone involved in such boisterous professions though. After a girl (Carey Mulligan) enters his life of solitude, he finds himself taking risks he knows he shouldn’t and is soon involved way too deep with some mob business gone wrong.
This movie is all about style, and I don’t mean flashy Hollywood style or anything derogatory. This director has a unique vision and executes it perfectly. Whether or not you’ll like his style is the big question. The director, Nicolas Winding Refn, has garnered some critical acclaim for past movies, only one of which I’ve seen. It was called Valhalla Rising, and I was psyched for a cool Viking action movie. What I got was the slowest-paced, most plotless, rambling mess of a movie I’ve seen in years. So I had quite a bit of trepidation about his latest movie.
The slow pace is still there, but thankfully it’s not as bad. There are lingering shots of characters’ faces and long pauses between lines of dialogue, so much so that some of the ruder people in the audience started snickering and catcalling to the characters during the silences. I admit, there are definitely scenes that tried my patience too.
Another style choice is the odd 80’s vibe throughout the movie. It’s not set in the 80’s at all. But the music, credits, and some clothes are all thoroughly 80’s. I don’t know why–it doesn’t have anything to do with the movie. Maybe the director just likes it. It does stick out a bit awkwardly, but because it’s done so consistently that it all works together.
Gosling’s character is so calm and smooth that when the action and violence breaks out, it’s shocking. So often in action movies, violence doesn’t feel dangerous. Maybe it’s that “desensitization” we keep hearing about. Somehow, this movie RE-sensitizes you, so that each violent scene is brutal and horrifying. Again, my not-so-bright audience laughed and applauded at several of these scenes, which really just proves they didn’t get the point. It was actually kind of scary how bloodthirsty some of them were.
The violence is effective, the character is enigmatic, the plot is twisty, and the acting is generally great. Side characters include Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, and Bryan Cranston. I don’t understand all the decisions that some characters make, but I like that they feel authentic.
There are 2 car chases, as would be expected for a movie with a professional driver. One is a cat-and-mouse type, that managed to find a new way to present the decades-old cliche of a car chase. The other is more traditional, but still done very well. For most people, the end of the movie, with the action and plot reveals, will be enough to make up for the artsy nature of the first half. It’s slow and methodical, and Gosling is so reserved that you want to just shake his silly 80’s jacket to make him do something. I liked this first half, but I’m also glad that it picked up steam eventually. Your opinion will likely be higher or lower based solely on how tolerant you are of the first half hour or so. By the end, though, I think this one will grab you.