Set in present day LA but with a large finger pointing towards the 70’s & 80’s, Drive stars Ryan Gosling as an unnamed driver, alongside Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks, and Ron Perlman. An all star ensemble cast you would have to say. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, of Bronson fame, Drive is an action thriller with a hint of old school movies as an influence. For me A Clockwork Orange seemed to be on show here.
Driver works in a car garage, drives cars for movies, and getaway cars for robberies. He is the best driver around and is soon to be the racing for Bryan Cranston and Albert Brooks combined adventure into NASCAR racing. However our anti-hero soon becomes distracted when he strikes a connection with a woman in his building, Irene, (Mulligan) and her son. He soon finds out her husband is to be released from prison and when he is the husband is instantly threatened unless he does one last heist. Out of his infatuation with Irene, Driver decides to help her husband in order to protect her from this violent mob, only the job they undertake goes array and Driver is left holding a million in cash of one of the most dangerous men in town. Our Driver must act fast using cunning, speed, and ultra violence to be able to escape these men and protect the woman and child he has fallen for.
For starters the acting is fantastic. Gosling is given very little dialogue, very little back story, and very little characterisation. He spends most of the film silent, talking only when he is spoken to. His thoughts and emotions are portrayed through his expressions and his body language alone and this is something we haven’t seen Gosling do before. He shows that he really can lead a film and without much to say as well. His character change about half way through is also handled excellently, from the quiet, subtle character in one line becomes frightening when sitting in a diner he snaps at a man, ‘shut your mouth before I kick your teeth down your throat and shut it for ya!’ This is the moment Driver finally shows some emotion and in one line Gosling has intrigued us into who this character really is. Mulligan is sweet as the girl next door and Cranston really shows how good an actor he is, once again not showing us any signs of any other character he has played in the past. Another star was Albert Brooks as the primary villain. He may seem as an odd choice considering the whole way through you will hear him as Nemo’s Father from Finding Nemo. But in some violent actions we realise he certainly isn’t a clown fish. The acting really does drive this story that actually has very little substance in terms of plot but delivers in performance and direction by Refn. If I had to criticise a problem with the characters it is that I never particularly felt hooked by them and by the end of the film I didn’t feel overly moved I just felt like I had watched some top acting in a good film.
The music certainly has to be mentioned. From the opening scene where the music purrs in the background along with Gosling’s heart rate and car engine during an eight minute chase sequence through LA, to the booming songs from the Chromatics, Vincent Belorgey, and College. The music gives you a sense of where you are and a big hint to the 70’s and 80’s. It fits in perfectly with how the film is told and the visuals. Gosling’s attire is very thirty years ago and his actions whilst wearing it reminded me of Alex from A Clockwork Orange. Even the feel and look of the opening credits sets the style of the movie instantly, the letters being as if scribbled on and in fluorescent pink. A nice touch from Refn.
Overall the film is a must see. It maybe isn’t quite as out of this world, like many have said, in terms of story but the acting, music, and vision are things you have to see. The direction of the opening scene alone is also worth paying the money for; the camera never leaves the car whilst Gosling attempts to escape the cops during a getaway. It throws you into the film almost instantly. The slight problem is that after this it does become quite slow whilst we learn the placid nature of our Driver, and his emotional connection with Irene. Here we never feel like they totally connect and I was never drawn into these scenes. When the action kicks in about half way we are treated to a severe case of the ultra-violence, and despite being very well done it doesn’t particularly make us care for the characters. That being said you shouldn’t see this for the story as it is one downfall in an otherwise very good movie. Gosling alone makes this worth watching, and combine that with the excellent music and great direction and you will be very happy with the film you have just watched. Recommended to all those out there who would love a hint back to the 80’s.
3.5 / 5