52 Movies: Week 7
Drive is a well crafted, stylish bit of film noir with memorable characters and an excellent cast.
The movie Drive shares a personality with its nameless protagonist, a stuntman moonlighting as a getaway driver, played by Ryan Gosling. Gosling’s character is uncomplicated, quietly charming and even a little sentimental. He does not waste words and is a master of his craft. His violence, when it comes, is sudden, explosive and relentlessly driven.
Drive is the story of a nameless wheel-man who likes to keep things simple and professional. He controls his emotions and behaviors to an almost pathological level but, when he becomes involved with his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son, things start to get complicated. In order to protect Irene and her son, Gosling offers to help her husband with a robbery. When things go sideways, Gosling has to struggle to regain control, of both the situation and himself.
I had heard mixed things about Drive so, going in, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. I suspect that anyone looking for a straight up action movie will be disappointed by Drive. Drive is character driven noir. It’s stylish, it’s lean, it’s dark and at times, it’s brutal. Fans of film-noir and crime dramas should love this movie as I did.
Some critics have compared Drive to the films of Michael Mann. While I see some of the parallels, Michael Mann’s films tend to leave me cold whereas Drive, directed by Denmark’s Nicholas Winding Refn, belies it’s own cool demeanor, (again shared with the nameless protagonist), with a warmth that comes from the strength of its characters. I don’t think Drive would have worked for me if I was not emotionally invested in these characters and Gosling is particularly goodat bringing warmth to a character who might otherwise come across as a psychopath. Instead we are presented with a character who is wrestling to control his inner demons and who wants desperately to be a regular guy.
There is another parallel worth drawing here and that is to Sergio Leone’s man with no name trilogy. Like Eastwood’s nameless protagonist, Gosling’s character is a stoic, reluctant and ultimately tragic hero. Nicholas Winding Refn said that, with Drive, he wanted to make a modern fairy tale, full of archetypal characters and featuring a hero who wanders the land protecting the good and the innocent by enacting horrible acts of violent on the evil people who would do them harm. The movie succeeds on this and many other levels. As with several of the movies I have reviewed lately, this is one of the best films of 2011, (indeed, it may be my favorite so far), and I give it the full five stars.