Review: Drive (2011)

After all the hype I finally jump on board, but will I stay for the entire ride?

Screenplay By: Hossein Amini
Directed By: Nicolas Winding Refn

As I grow and change as a cinephile I find that movies that wouldn’t have impacted me in the past now have a great sway over me. When I first started getting serious (as oxymoronic as that term is it fits this situation the best) about film there was little chance I would be enamored with a film like Drive. I had my film sensibilities locked in place, and a slick crime movie like Drive did not fit with those sensibilities. I worried somewhat that the allure of Drive would be lost on me because I did not grow up seeking out and loving the films that Drive emulates. Five minutes into Drive I knew I was where I needed to be and I was watching a movie tailor made for my evolving film sensibilities.

I have grown to be a cinephile who loves exploration. The films I enjoy the most are those that explore. That exploration could be a theme, or a narrative drive, a color scheme, basically any idea under the sun. For me the thrill is in watching a director implement his vision in the form of exploration. Drive is a film full of exploration, in fact I’d argue that the film is all about exploration. This could have led to the film being a cold exercise in style, but it isn’t. Nicolas Winding Refn explores many areas within Drive, and he explores said areas with a sort of glowing neon warmth.

The character of the Driver is used to explore the idea of silence and how that impacts others. On the surface Ryan Gosling doesn’t do much as the Driver. He doesn’t talk that much, and he spends the majority of his time quietly brooding. However, thinking that Mr. Gosling doesn’t do much with his performance is selling him short as an actor. He doesn’t talk much because the silence he creates between himself and others is essential in exploring how people react to a strong presence in their midst. Albert Brooks plays Bernie Rose in the opposite fashion. His character is one of exploring that which we do not suspect. Viciousness is beneath the surface of Bernie, but the outer layer of his character is all charm and measured words. He’s the scariest character of all in Drive because of the unsuspecting nature of his violence.

Herr Refn explores tone, atmosphere, and the effects of sudden bursts of violence on the audience. Drive establishes a certain tone, with the soft lighting and colorful neon signage, and then spends the rest of the movie breaking up that atmosphere with moments of violence. The sudden bursts of violence or the action of the few car chases break the tension like a baseball bat smacking someone straight in the face. The approach Herr Refn takes to the lighting, the smoldering state of the story, and the music drenches the film in atmosphere. The violence and the car chases are aesthetically pleasing, but they don’t have a soft edge like the rest of the film.

In my burgeoning days of loving film I wouldn’t have loved a film like Drive. But, as a cinephile who now loves exploration and movies that allow their atmosphere to wash over you like waves from the ocean I loved Drive. There were a few moments within the narrative that made me cringe a bit, but on the whole I enjoyed every moment I spent with Drive. Great performances, excellent cinematography, and brilliantly filmed cityscapes held my attention throughout. Neigh, Drive did more than that, I was borderline giddy while watching this film, and that’s why it lived up to all the hype and then some.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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2 responses to “Review: Drive (2011)

  1. I agree with the sentiment that there was a time where I would have loved this film. I still enjoyed it a lot. The film certainly does have an experimental vibe that opens it up to being seen as more of an exploration.

    Glad you caught up with this one, it is a solid film.

  2. Solid indeed, and the further I get from the film the more that I like it.

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