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Drive - Empire's #1 film of 2011...does it deserve this award? - The Review

Updated on November 19, 2012

The short answer? No. The film is unremarkable to the nth degree. Yes, the short romantic sequences are touching - they are the most (or rather "only") entertaining sections of the film, down to the script, stylistic approach and actors. However, the film as a whole, fails in it's aim to be "interesting" and arty, coming across as empty and painfully vapid. This is true to such an extent that even a film with bursts of violent action comes across as "turn off the TV so I can watch paint dry" boring. The heart of the problem is that although the minimalistic tone of Drive works in places, this device is used excessively and ineffectively, further limiting an already bland plot, leaving behind a poor empty husk of a film, that had the potential to be a masterpiece. Interesting idea, but poor execution and a boring final product. Now go watch a Christopher Nolan film to see how a film should be done.

So lets take a deeper look

Drive is an art house film about an unnamed driver, played by Ryan Gosling, who does a very good job of playing a character who speaks less in the whole movie, than you did to the person you bought the DVD off whilst simultaneously not doing a lot of driving. The plot of the film is very straightforward, fitting for Gosling's character whose only identifying characteristic is that he is a driver; a mechanic by day and world class get-away driver at night. After a robbery goes wrong those who stole the money want blood and a fairly standard plot unfolds....where people die. Horribly. The violent bursts you'll watch are thoroughly explicit and gory. In some films, this would be appropriate. In the the case of Drive, it is not. The line between subtly and explicit action is a very thin one, and Drive fails to tread it, wandering off into the distance and drowning somewhere in the Pacific. Instead of adding to the film with shocking episodes of violence, the whole thing comes across as very immature. There is no tension and the lack of music during these fights, fails to make the fighting more tense and real. Even the brief car chase scenes in the film are totally lack lust. The violence, and in fact the whole film, is very similar in tone to A History Of Violence. Very raw and visceral violence which fails to bring across it's points, and is ultimately a big shame.

However, it is not all doom and silent gloom, punctuated with gratuitous gore. The romantic pieces are quite endearing. A silent male who we assume has a difficult upbringing, behaves caring and human towards a vulnerable woman and her child. Cute. Here, the stripped down approach works. Had this been a romantic film, then it would have been incredible. The lack of talking conveys the awkwardness of a first date very well. The silence and the brief flirty looks at each make it seem even more real and intense - as we all know, on a date, the eyes are the most important thing to watch. It is quite sweet and succeeds in transforming the film into a very real experience....temporarily. Once these pieces are gone, the film returned to it's boring slog.


And that is exactly what it is. Boring! The plot is straightforward, and yet manages to loses you! And this is a massive shame! There are interesting questions to ask about Goslings character, such as whether we can "support" a character who shows very human emotions, but also acts very violently and behaves in a potentially sociopathic way. The soundtrack itself is put together nicely. The acting is fairly solid. The meticulous way Gosling conducts his get-away driving has the potential for excitement. And this is very well and good, but it is very difficult to care about these aspects of a film, when the main layer of the film is totally univolvong. The senseless violence is indeed shocking. But it is not mentally or emotionally shocking, and thus the film does not connect with you because you do not care for the characters. Furthermore, there is no build up in the sound track. At least in big blockbusters, there is a feeling that what is happening is important. What happens in Drive feels unimportant. It doesn't matter. You don't really care for the characters, nor the film. How can you ask yourself whether you should cheer for a violent character when you don't care about him enough to cheer in the first place. It's as though the film built a bridge to reach the land of "interesting-ness"...and then ignored it and walked in the opposite direction towards the Mountains of Uninterest. This film was very close to joining the likes of Vampires Suck and Doctor Dolittle on the List of films I've walked out of/turned off.

I am glad this film exists and I am glad this film did well for the sole reason that better innovative films may come from this.
But would I watch it again?
Would I advise someone to see it?
Somewhere in this film is the masterpiece Empire seems to think they saw. Somewhere.

Ranking : 4/10
+ Cute realistic romantic scenes
+ The Drivers meticulous driving method
+ The acting was solid
- The lack of care or emphatic feelings for any characters
- The unnecessary violence
- The positives are nearly irrelevant when the film is boring.

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