Let’s Talk About Movies: Drive

Simply stated, “Drive” is a beautiful film.

Getting paid to watch movies and write about them has always been a great privilege. Movies such as “Drive,” however, make me think I have the best job in the world.

Based on the 2005 James Sallis novel by the same name, “Drive” follows the story of an unnamed main character (Ryan Gosling) as he tries to do what’s right.  Standing between him and freedom are a slew on west coast mobsters and a whole lot of bad luck.

In addition to working as a part time stunt driver, Gosling’s character pulls jobs as a getaway driver.  The movie opens with the driver in the middle of a job that sets the pace for the rest of the movie.

After falling for the pretty girl, Irene (Carey Mulligan), a few doors down in his apartment building, Gosling agrees to help her recently paroled husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), pull one last job to save his family.  While in the joint, Standard developed a hefty sum in protection money.

Surprisingly, the job goes awry, leaving the Driver on the wrong side of a couple mobsters, which with whom he recently went into business as a stockcar driver.  The remainder of the movie deals with the Driver trying to save Irene.

Throughout the film, an ethereal soundtrack guides the story from sequence to sequence with soft, smooth tones, contrasting the visual elements of the movie.  Planted in portions throughout the film, the final song of the movie, “A Real Hero” by College featuring Electric Youth, ends “Drive” on a hauntingly beautiful note.

The direction of this film has only one real recent analogue for me, “The Social Network.” The pacing in the film by Nicolas Winding Refn, who won “Best Director” at the Cannes Film Festival for this movie, shows great poise and an appreciation for the understated.  Simple camera shots blossom into revealing sequences, adding increasing depth as the plot progresses.

Watching “Drive” through the lens afforded us by Refn makes one thing clear, cool is back.  “Drive” oozes a sense of style that many other modern films try to accomplish, yet nearly all fail.  If I had to prove this point in a single example, it would be as follows: look at the main character’s jacket.  Done.

In addition to the swagger lent by the jacket, the scorpion on the back of the jacket strikes an important thematic chord.  An allusion to the fable of the scorpion and the frog, we learn that some people are going to commit certain actions, regardless of the outcome.  To explain any further might stray into a spoiler, but it’s important to note as it helps delve into the psyche of the main character.

Continuing down the thematic road, the element of bad luck serves as an important part of the film.  If everything went according to plan, life would be so much easier, but let’s use the tagline from another movie that explores this theme too: there are no clean getaways.  Taking this line from the Coen Brother’s “No Country for Old Men,” “Drive” incorporates many similar ideas that something just has to go wrong.

Something that did not go wrong was the acting.  Gosling’s portrayal of the main character was nearly flawless, nailing the stare downs with other characters perfectly.  Bryan Cranston, playing Shannon, adds to the overall excellence of the acting in “Drive.”

“Drive” is absolutely fantastic.  However, this movie is not for everyone.  Violent sequences are few and far between but the few are quite violent.  Also worth noting, the violence serves a purpose.  In addition to helping display the mental state of the Driver, the violence creates a startling contrast with the aural aspects of the movie.

“Drive” is sleek, cool and one of those rare movies that excels in every facet.  Unforgiving and unrelenting, “Drive” challenges the action movie standard with thoughtful direction and artistic style.  Sure, you can write “Drive” off as art house, but you would be cheating yourself out of a rare experience at the movie theater.

Simply repeated, “Drive” is a beautiful film.


Final Grade: A+