There is a silent elegance to the way Drive presents itself; there is some clear nostalgia at work, as the film tries to emulate classic noir of the 60s and 70s, which results in a film that is very different from what modern day viewers are used to. But despite the nostalgia, Drive has suffered time’s filter nevertheless. Today all car chases are loud, explosive, and somewhat incoherent. With this background in mind, I welcome a movie like Drive; a movie that takes its time to explore the craft of driving. When you think about it logically car chase should be much more about stealth and avoiding the spotlight than blowing up half of downtown LA.
The films opening scene sets the mood; it opens with a car chase but you wouldn’t recognize it as one if the last movie you saw was Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Unlike some loud movies, The Driver (Ryan Gossling) doesn’t step the pedal on full throttle, and the silver Impala he drives never reaches past 40-mph. Everything seems methodical, focused, and calculated to the millisecond. If anything I would call this film Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï on wheels; where the characters seem to hold their breath for ages just to make sure they hit what they are aiming for.
The Driver is a man of little words only action, like the anti-heroes of an old western. When he meets his lovely next-door neighbor, Irene (Carey Mullingan), he barely lets out a “hello”, but he is still very helpful when her car breaks down. And over the next few weeks he gets to know Irene, and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos), who’s father (Oscar Isaac) sits in prison. Irene and the Driver only exchange a few sentences and yet you feel an immediate connection between the two. It is innocent; he wouldn’t dare touch a married woman.
When Standard, Irene’s husband, finally gets out of prison, he is friendly towards the Driver; after all, good neighbors are hard to come by. So when Standard needs a Driver for his next heist, he has someone he can trust. I am going to guess that you have already guessed that it all goes badly from here on and that the Driver ends up in a mess he never intended to be in. But I won’t spoil it further.
I can say that you are in for a ride, with the Driver as you driver. This is an aggressive movie; there will be some laughs, not because the situation is funny but because there isn’t any other way to release the stress. Brutal would be one word to describe it.
Ryan Gossling gives a steely performance; with so little dialogue his true acting abilities surface. And man, this guy understands silent human communication. It is all in the little nuances. A smile can say so many things. And the fact that the Driver, has no name is an excellent throwback to the characters of classic Eastwood, like the Man with No Name. And unlike Nicholas Cage, he never drives angry; I guess this is because anger has a negative effect on your focus.
Finally something needs to be said of Nicholas Winding Refn’s directing; he has the steady hand of a surgeon. Like the Driver his methods are methodical and calculated to the frame. Anyone else would have done a completely different movie.