“Drive” was an excellent, high calibre, praiseworthy movie experience.
Directed with confidence and style by newcomer to American cinema Nicolas Winding Refn, drive is the best movie I’ve seen in theatres this year by a longshot, and most certainly will be in discussion for movie of the year here, if not the actual Oscars.
In fact, the only real criticism I have of it is that there were several times during the film I found myself wondering if I was watching a film that was going to register amongst the greats, if I was meeting a new film to my personal top fifty for the first time. It never quite got there, but I think the best way to present that isn’t to put that out there negatively, but to put it out there positively.
This is a film that flirts with greatness.
“Drive” centers around an unnamed character who drives and works on cars for a living. Let’s call him “The Kid”. He was called kid a couple of times by Bryan Cranston’s character, so… By day he works in a garage and does stunt driving for Hollywood movies. Occasionally however, he does getaway driving for crimes.
Like so many Hollywood criminals, “the Kid’s” trouble begins when he falls for a woman. Down the hall from his spartan apartment lives Irene, played wonderfully by Carey Mulligan, a mother raising her son by herself while her husband is in jail. After bumping in to her a couple of times, “The Kid” falls for both her and her son in a big way.
Unfortunately, her husband is due to be released shortly.
And when her husband comes home, he brings a world of trouble with him.
As you can imagine, with two criminals so prominently in the fore, this is a film populated with lowlifes, gangsters, and molls. “Drive” is a crime thriller, replete with double-crossing, heists, violence and danger. It establishes the stakes well by creating a genuine emotional connection between “The Kid”, Irene and her child, and then tosses “The Kid” into the pool with the sharks.
Refn is the true star of the show to me, wielding the camera like an artist, mixing musical styles in his soundtrack, crafting some realistic action and tossing in some shocking brutality. He is obviously someone to keep an eye on, and now I definitely have to go back and check out his previous efforts. Words like confident, restrained, intelligent, and bold kept popping into my mind when thinking about how to describe his style as I watched this movie.
That isn’t to say that the acting isn’t top-notch here. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brooks gets nominated for an Academy Award for a supporting role. He’s that kind of good as the movie’s chief Gangster, and Hollywood loves to reward famous names for great efforts. It also wouldn’t shock me if Mulligan was recognized with a nomination, she’s already been nominated once (“An Education”), she may do it again here. Perlman is awesome as the muscle end of a pair of gangsters, and Cranston is awesome as well as a sort of de facto manager for “The Kid”. Gossling himself in the lead is certainly fine, but the part is intentionally minimalistic, so… he does a great job of acting alternately tough and cool, I’ll give him that.
As I said, I kept wondering if this movie was an all time great as I watched it. It DEFINITELY tests your patience at times, but it’s certainly worth it. I guess I was just conditioned by Hollywood to expect a more explosive finale after this kind of slow burn build up. And while the finale was certainly cathartic enough, it wasn’t the hail of bullets or furious car chase that I was expecting.
Which isn’t a knock, just adjust your expectations. This movie is relatively light on the action, and certainly has less “driving” than you’d expect, but the plot and characters and tension and directing are all top-notch.
I have no hesitation giving it an A.