Matt's Drive Review
I thought Inception and The Town were good indicators that the film industry was still capable of making great films. I thought Tree of Life was a true original film, possibly a groundbreaking masterpiece. When I walked out of Drive, I found myself saying that we could very well be heading into a new golden age of filmmaking. Drive is a film of such intelligence and art, that it highlights the mediocrity of many of the other films I see. This film is the reason Thor was a 6/10, and No Country for Old Men a 4/10 – you have to keep the mediocrity where it belongs so there’s room at the top of the scale for films like this.
- You who are reading this and maybe considering seeing this film will want to know up front: the title and the trailer will tell you next to nothing about this film. The advertisements making Drive look like a fast-paced action movie with lots of car chases is highly deceptive. What Drive offers is far more interesting and intelligent than that. Drive is, in fact, a relatively slowly paced character study/gangster film that will probably catch many people off guard.
- The director/mastermind behind Drive is a new-comer named Nicolas Winding Refn. Refn shows more promise than most directors with such a short filmography. Drive is his 9th project in the director’s chair. This is a really beautifully shot film with good lighting, composition, and interesting camera angles. As for the story, Refn’s influences are pretty clear, he draws from Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann, Quentin Tarantino, and David Cronenberg. This is a director with a lot of really good ideas, but the inelegance of the violent set-pieces seems to give away his lack of experience.
- This film loses a certain amount of credibility when it came to how the violence was presented. Absolutely nothing was left to the imagination. It was not so violent that it became unwatchable and at no point did I lose touch with the characterization. However, I thought there were a few places where some choice cuts could’ve been made, and the movie might have been better for it.
Case and Point (slight spoilers here): There is a scene where a man is beaten to death in an elevator. This is one of the most beautifully shot sequences in the film. The choreography, the camerawork, the lighting and the performances were just amazing. It was just amazing until I saw the man’s head literally explode. It was a very fast, split-second shot that was totally unnecessary. The scene would’ve been much more elegant if that had been omitted. The man dying was not the point of the scene, the point was what was going on between Gosling’s character and Cary Mulligan’s character.
- The dialogue in this film may not be sparse, but Gosling’s dialogue is. He has very little to say in this film, but Gosling communicates much through facial expression. The reason I bring this up in the “observations” section instead of the performances section is that in this film, what’s not being said in a given scene is equally important to what is said. Viewers will want to pay close attention to the performances, particularly by Gosling and Mulligan to pick up on all the nuances.
- I typically have no problems with a steadily paced film. I like breathing room for scenes to be what they are, I like well developed characters and I hate seeing actors rushed by the editing. That said, I can’t deny I felt the slow pacing of this film a little more than most. Drive just seemed to linger in certain scenes for just a tad too long. It’s a very minor flaw.
- Between Drive and The Ides of March, Gosling is having quite a good year. As I’ve said already, his dialogue is relatively sparse. He communicates a lot through his facial expression or body language. It’s a subtle performance that I think certain viewers may not take to. I thought he was brilliant, but his is not the best performance in the film.
- The best performance in the film was by Cary Mulligan. Having seen her in several films such as Bleak House, An Education, and Never Let Me Go, I think it is safe to say Mulligan is one of the very best leading ladies of the day, and looking at her bio, she has excellent instincts for picking out projects. If she keeps going the way she has, it’s only a matter of time before she wins an Oscar for Best Actress. In Drive, she plays Gosling’s love interest, and she does so with such grace and poise that it’s hard to take your eyes off her. She’s truly captivating.
Music, Cinematography and Special Effects
- The soundtrack in this film really is something special. It gives the film an almost nostalgic quality for 80s noir. I would easily recommend adding this to your collection. Nightcall by Kavinsky has become a particular favorite of mine.
- The cinematography in Drive was really excellent. I will be most upset if Drive fails to get academy attention for this. Not since Mulholland Dr. have I gotten such a great feel for Los Angeles from a film. Top that off with some of the best camera work as far as angles and shot composition I have seen in a long time, and you’ve got a really interesting film to look at.
- The special effects are largely violence related. There’s also a car chase in the middle of this film that was just awesome. This isn’t a flashy film by any stretch, but I found it a very interesting visual film nonetheless. Like the dialogue, the effects were sparse.
The Bottom Line
Despite my quibbles about the level of violence in this film, there’s no denying that this is a film that is a cut above the rest. Drive is as interesting in its ambiguities as it is in its characterization. It’s a fascinating work of art that will no doubt be analyzed obsessively by fans and critics in the years to come. Drive wants to be a masterpiece, it tries to be. It does not quite succeed in my opinion. Though it takes inspiration from the best works of Tarantino, Scorsese, Cronenberg and Michael Mann, it never quite matches the best work of any of those filmmakers. Drive is more art-house than the work of those filmmakers, but a film being art-house doesn’t automatically make it better.
I expect this film will get academy attention, and rightly so. I won’t call this the best picture of the year, but it would probably make my top 5. So see it! 9/10