Drive is a 2011 movie directed by Nicholas Winding Refn starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston. It’s a hard movie to define, halfway between drama and thriller (and even modern noir, if you want). Drive truly hypnotizes me, I’ve already seen it a dozen times and it always manages to keep me glued to the screen from beginning to end, a little for its aesthetics, a little for the Cliff Martinez killer soundtrack, and a little for the subdued but convincing performances of all its protagonists. Let’s start with a hint of the plot.
Ryan Gosling plays a stuntman who sometimes works as a getaway driver. He comes in contact with Italian-American criminals (including Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks), although he normally interacts only with the owner of the workshop where he works, Shannon (Bryan Cranston), who acts as an intermediary. That’s a great character, here’s a guy who failed at everything in his whole life… Well, one day the stuntman (he has no name, apparently) falls in love with Irene (Carey Mulligan), and when her husband (Oscar Isaac) gets out of prison he goes out of his way to help him. But things don’t go exactly as planned…
The plot of the film is similar to that of the various classics of the same genre to which even Edgar Wright paid tribute with his Baby Driver (2017): An exceptional driver at some point wants to quit in order to lead a quiet life, and it turns out to be extremely difficult. Refn innovates through his style and his movie feels like a welcome addition to the genre (a genre with great entries such as 1968’s Bullitt and 1972’s The Getaway, just to name two with Steve McQueen).
Drive is full of darkness with neon lights, car chases shot from inside the vehicle accompanied by the deafening noise of the engine, long scenes either in complete silence or accompanied by excellent electronic music, and above all moments of absolute violence that follow sweet romantic moments and vice versa, in a decidedly compelling development of the story. Refn manages to masterfully shoot each of these very different scenes, directing an exceptional cast in the process.
In reality I have little to add to describe what for me is a real sensory experience. You could remove the dialogues and the movie would be equally good (a bit like Mad Max: Fury Road, 2015), it’s visually stunning (and did I mention the killer soundtrack?). Don’t watch Drive hoping to find endless car chases, even if there are a few, because it’s not the classic movie of the genre, but I still recommend watching it without any doubt. Ten years after its release in theaters (not a wide release I’m afraid, it’s a low-budget film – 15 million dollars) I recommend that you give it a chance, if you haven’t done so yet. Hello!
PS: I know you can read the film as a reinterpretation of the fable of the scorpion and the frog, just look at the jacket worn by Gosling throughout the film, but honestly it’s not the part that struck me most of Drive.
PPS: There’s one little detail I didn’t like. When Ryan Gosling hits Ron Perlman’s car and throws it off the small cliff at the end, how come the front lights of the car are intact afterwards? It bothers me. It shouldn’t, but it does.
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