Drive (2011)

"How about this? Shut your mouth, or I’ll kick your teeth down your throat and I’ll shut it for you.""How about this? Shut your mouth, or I’ll kick your teeth down your throat and I’ll shut it for you."

“How about this? Shut your mouth, or I’ll kick your teeth down your throat and I’ll shut it for you.”

One hundred thousand streets in Los Angeles means a highly skilled driver can accomplish anything with the right number of skills. Having the skill set to navigate is the difference between freedom and capture. The character simply known as the Driver (Ryan Gosling) knows the city like the back of his hand. He does his job well and expects the people he works with to understand the rules set in place. Anything within the time frame the Driver sets, he’s your man, a minute over and you’re on your own, you won’t even get to reach him again.

Drive kicks off in full throttle while the Driver is pulling a job. Every action is meticulous, every detail is well thought out and looked over multiple times – A police scanner and a watch to count down the time frame to be able to get away safely is at Driver’s fingertips. As soon as the burglary is finished, the Driver has full control – it’s up to him to evade the police by any means necessary. These first moments set the tone for what’s to follow in the story while building the tension with little dialogue and fast paced action. The Driver is a chameleon, and his partner Shannon (Bryan Cranston) gives the Driver the tools to blend in. 

By day the Driver is a part-time stuntman for the movies – we’re not sure he even likes it. He doesn’t say much, in fact the Driver may have less than 50 lines of dialogue said throughout the entirety of the story. At first, the lack of dialogue appears off putting but the focus of Goslings performance is instead on his demeanor and his actions throughout the story. Hes an imposing force but has a soft spot for his neighbor Irene’s (Carey Milligan) son Benicio (Kaden Leos). Even with the lack of dialogue and uncomfortable silences between the two, there is a strong connection right away. 

“You know how much my business made last year? Thirty grand. I can build a car in six months and in six seconds these jerks right it off as a stunt that won’t even make it into the movie. You see, all I need is a hard used stock car. That’s all. Now, I figure we start off with small town circuit, we work our way up and once we get to the show, we’re talking millions.”

Where Drive gets its motor running is when Irene’s boyfriend Standard (Oscar Isaac) gets out of prison and gets jumped for money owed for protection. Driver offers his services to Standard – he never saw the Driver as a threat even in their first meeting. Shot as a western stand off by cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, he captures the two characters sizing each other up perfectly. In that moment both understand each other on a professional manner while not saying much a lot is understood between them. Standard appreciates the Driver looking after his girlfriend and son while he was away and trusts him.  

Driver offers to help Standard with a job to pay his debt, but the job goes south leaving the Driver to clean up the mess. Drive is based on the novel of the same name by author James Sallis. The book not having a linear storyline can be tricky to adapt to the big screen, but screenwriter Hossein Amini does solid work with the short, tricky novel he has to work with. A similar film and book that doesn’t have a linear story is the David Fincher adapted film Fight Club written by author Chuck Palahniuk. What Fincher is able to pull off is what director Nicolas Winding Refn pulls off – a strong story that makes sense from beginning, middle and end. 

At first glance, there is no real back story provided for these characters nor any sense of development. These aspects take a back seat and to be honest, the film moves along just fine without them. The story that is told doesn’t call for the characters to open their souls for us to be invested in them. We can still connect with Driver and feel the emotion he feels. Some may see this as a failure for the film but it’s one of the better aspects that director Nicolas Winding Refn chooses to focus on. 

“We’re here celebrating, but it’s a shameful thing, what I did. And I have a lot of making up to do, to everyone. But second chances are rare, right? And that’s worth celebrating, right? So I want to make a toast to that lady right there.”

Gosling is an interesting choice to play Driver. With very little dialogue he’s able to play a different character than he has in the past. He’s intimidating and cold, yet he has a soft spot for those he comes to care about. All the momentum gained by the carefully crafted screenplay pays off when it’s time for the action to take the spotlight. Most times the action can feel overpowering to a slow burning narrative but with Drive the action fits perfectly into the story that’s being told. Each action sequence adds to the boogeyman aspect of the Driver’s unique personality. Every act of violence is brutal and unrelenting, you don’t want to piss off the Driver.

Drive’s strength lies in its character relationships. Gosling and Mulligan play well off one another even in the awkward moments. There is a certain attraction when both are on screen together that can’t be ignored. With the lack of dialogue and drama throughout most of the film, the opportunity for the shot selection takes the spotlight. Drive is a beautifully shot film with a crisp cinematic feeling to it. Majority of the emotion of Drive comes from its cinematography. 

Paired with the exceptional cinematography is a score that matches its emotion beat for beat, scene after scene. Sound editing alone with the tense scenes of the Driver feeding Cook (James Biberi) the bullet that was given to Benicio to the Driver putting on the rubber stuntman mask to kill Nino (Ron Perlman) (the person behind this entire operation) is used perfectly to emit the Drivers rage and fury. Part of the credit goes to Gosling as he is fully engulfed in his characters anger. His actions are unpredictable, yet everything feels calculated as if he broke the fourth wall and told us his plan. 

Drive is a uniquely adapted film that serves its purpose. With character development and dialogue taking a backseat, the focus is on the cinematography, action sequences and music. Gosling and Mulligan are charming together while Gosling taps into his characters rage and fury. With a solid supporting cast and a slowly paced and well thought out script, Drive is a solid film from top to bottom. If I were to rate Drive, Id rate it a 4 out of 5. 

So, tell me, have you seen Drive and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

Drive is directed by Nicolas Winding Refn is Rated R and has a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Drive was released on February 16, 2011 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 35 minutes. Drive can be purchased by online retailers like iTunes, Google, and Amazon.

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