Drive is a high-velocity, grotesquely graphic film noir based off the novella titled the same by James Sallis. Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn took home the coveted “Best Director” at Cannes for this overly stylized film that seems to pay homage to 80’s action dramas. Its pink neon opening credits are shadowed by beautiful midnight scenes of an ominous back drop of Los Angeles; millions of flickering lights unknowingly teased by the sudden shots of dark barren streets as an emotionless driver makes his way through its corrupt veins. Something is about to go down…
By day, Ryan Gosling’s character is a wheelman, stunt driving for Hollywood production companies and working as a mechanic for a small garage on Reseda Blvd., for his long time boss, Shannon ("Breaking Bad's" Bryan Cranston). But as the sun sets, the driver becomes something entirely different, using his born talent behind the wheel to help criminals in local heists. He is quintessentially the ultimate “driver” who is never given a name throughout the entire film. His character is enigmatic, ruthless and gives his clients one rule; they have five minutes to make out or he leaves.
From the opening scene of a very intense robbery, we quickly understand that our driver is sharp and highly-skillful under pressure, capable of outwitting LAPD in the bleakest of situations. In the aftermath of a close call, our driver then moves into an apartment building (we assume to keep his locations unknown and untraceable). In the elevator, we see that the driver has the ability to smile as he is easily amused by the antics of a small boy who turns out to be his new neighbor. Early over the course of the film, we watch the driver attempt to develop a relationship with the young boy, Benecio (Kaden Leos) and his mother, Irene (Carey Mulligan). There is an undeniable attraction that exists between the driver and Irene, but it’s quickly extinguished when Irene finds out that her husband Standard, who was incarcerated, is returning home.
Saddened, but sympathetic, the driver backs off from the friendship and allows the family to reacquaint themselves until local thugs threaten Standard and his family for monies owed from prison. His payback requires him to pull off a robbery. Caring for the safety of the young boy and his mother, the driver agrees to help Standard which ultimately unleashes a world of havoc and mayhem.
From here, the honeymoon is over and the film takes deadly turns into a cutthroat world of bloodshed and organized crime. Let us warn you, the film is overtly violent in particular scenes and our driver goes from just a skillful wheelman, to a grisly assassin. We found ourselves turning our heads as the gruesome acts of murder were exaggerated; a point we assume is due to the fact that our driver, whose hands were only a little dirty prior, had no issues dousing them in blood from this point forward.
Though we (me and my husband) squawked horribly at some of the song selections; a valid irritation considering most of the soundtrack had a bit of an 80’s feel to it (we assume was meant to enhance the feeling of nostalgia but only created a bit of cheesiness to certain scenes); we still felt like we had seen a kick ass crime drama. Drive takes you on a road that has not been travelled and does so at high speeds, thrusting you toward a cliff as you reach its finality. I'm putting this in my top five "Best Films" of the year. EXCELLENT MOVIE!
Cast and Credit:
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn