Drive. I’ve always been impressed by Ryan Gosling but I never would have guessed him for a role like this. He’s the subtle soft-spoken romantic type, but in Drive, he gets to show off a whole different side and one that is strangely compelling.
I don’t want to spoil the plot so I’m going to be very basic. Gosling stars as a man who is incredibly gifted at driving. Unfortunately, he ends up in the middle of something that forces him to use these skills to survive. Finding out who he is, what he does, and what conflict he’s in the middle of… those are all the fun moments, when the pieces come together.
What works? Gosling, as the lead, carries this entire film. He lends his softer qualities to the role which fleshes out what could have been any other action film. On the surface, this might sound like a revamp of the Transporter series, but Gosling helps to give this driver a depth that is incredible. He speaks very little (very little) but you learn most by watching him interact with the other supporting cast. This movie is slim on exposition. They don’t beat you over the head with HERE’S WHAT HAPPENING but instead you piece it together bit by bit as you follow the driver through his routines. Gosling’s driver is an incredible character to watch and as the movie progresses, you learn that there is much below the surface that you wouldn’t have expected.
The director of this film is also responsible for its success. Nicolas Winding Refn (from Sweden) works magic here. He takes Los Angeles (a city that is often the focus of heist movies) and makes it seem fresh and new again. There is an amber glow that resonates through most of the film and it was engrossing to watch. Also, the choice to include a very limited musical score was wise as well. In most chase movies, they’d hit you with a deep bass line and something fast to keep you engaged throughout the chase. In Drive, it is deathly silent. And instead of traditional chase scenes, the driver chooses to try to be unnoticed (as opposed to causing pile ups on the freeway without consequence). The opening scene of the film is especially breathtaking in this regard.
I can’t stress enough that this isn’t another chase movie. I’d compare this to something along the lines of a Coen Brothers film (especially some moments that reminded me of Burn After Reading and some of No Country for Old Men). The driving aspect is just a component of this story about love, loss, betrayal, and essentially… how far a man will go. It’s extremely compelling and a beautiful journey.
A warning though. If you didn’t infer this after my Coen Brothers reference, this is quite a violent movie. Not in quantity, but in… severity. I was going to say quality but that felt somewhat misleading. This not a film for the weak.
If you feel like seeing a beautiful story but one that is subtle and complicated and, at its core, very human… then you would enjoy Drive. The amazing cinematography is a bonus for those of you that love car chases, but the real beauty is in Gosling and how we view his world. In this time of summer when we’re all out of big blockbusters, give this gem a chance.