To drive is symbolism for so many things. Not only does it give one a thrill to feel the hot pedal giving way underneath one’s foot, but driving away from problems to new adventures, to new heights and unknown achievements, is as big of a thrill as anything else.
A man, simply known as Driver, drives towards nameless difficulties and complicated dangers in the movie Drive, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. A Hollywood stuntman, garage mechanic, and getaway driver for illegal activities, Driver finds himself falling in love with his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), who has a young son. The father? He’s in prison, set to get out any day. When that day comes, Driver decides to help the father, Standard, pay off debt he had accumulated in prison for protection. When the planned heist goes terribly wrong, Driver is thrown into a whirlwind of gang commotion, vicious stabbings, and a whole lot of amazing eighties techno/suave background music.
For those who want to look at Drive as a run-of-the-mill action movie, think again. Refn is superb at making the common car chase scene unique and invigorating. Everything from camera angles to background noise has a purpose. These are scenes with substance, far from the mindless daubery of Michael Bay-ish explosions and Schwarzenegger-esque one-liners.
Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman) are the main antagonists of the film, yet there is no trace of the untouchable bad guys that we see too often in cinema. Brooks and Perlman are perfect as bitter gangsters doused in personality and humanistic qualities. If you shoot them, they’ll bleed. If you stab them, they’ll die. Are they bad news? Absolutely. But they’re people, and that makes them all the more interesting.
Ryan Gosling plays the ambiguous Driver (referred to in the movie as “the kid”) seemingly with ease. He barely talks. He says so much with his eyes and his smirks. This character is so ambiguous that he doesn’t even have a name. It’s like we are but flies on the wall, and we have encountered a man that has lived a very mysterious, disturbing past that has shaped him into the intriguing character he is today.
Refn balances action, violence, love, and drama so well. The pacing sets the viewer on a ride with stops, accelerations, twists, and turns. The film seems so oblivious to itself – in a good way – as if it isn’t a film but reality. As far as pacing goes, this critic would compare it to the 2007 award-winner No Country for Old Men.
I’m not an advocate for a soundtrack being a huge part of a movie. Sure, good soundtracks are nice, but rarely, to me, does a soundtrack serve as another character. Drive is a different story. The soundtrack is so offbeat from the tone of the movie, but, somehow, it works incredibly well. The music makes Driver’s scorpion-themed jacket seem right at home.
Drive is a masterpiece. I have no complaints. The performances, soundtrack, and tone flow together in one amazing work of cinema. Find new heights, find unknown achievements – just drive.