Drive is the sort of film that taps directly into my particular set of cinematic pleasure receptors. All the more satisfying because I had no idea that it would. Up until the moments the opening credits rolled I had no idea that I craved an elliptical, Euro crime thriller, starring Ryan Gosling, with a mile wide romantic streak, and a discordant electro score that sounds like it’d be more comfortable in a David Lynch movie, but voila, apparently I did. Drive is a work of masculine art cinema on par with Le Samourai and Pat Garret And Billy The Kid.
Drive the story of a getaway driver who finds himself betrayed by the people he works for, is of course a story you’ve seen before. Hell, lets face it; you’ve already seen the existential art film approach to this story as well. This is a film that wears its Le Samourai hero worship proudly. All Gosling’s spartan apartment lacks is a grey bird and I’m sure that was just an oversight.
Drive is one of those films where every element works, no matter how unlikely. Ryan Gosling with a mumble that would make James Dean envious and a smile that would melt butter. He has the amazing ability to look equally convincing shyly holding a girl’s hand and crushing a skull. Albert Brooks chilling banality of evil performance all the more effective for the way that it seems barely removed from his usual persona. Carey Mulligan reveals the uncanny ability to make herself look five years older and wearier at will and Bryan Cranston does his Bryan Cranston thing. Perhaps only Ron Perlman is not used to full potential here, but then again Things That Don’t Suck has always held firm to the position that it is difficult to get too much Ron Perlman.
Nicholas Refn shoots Los Angeles the way that Michael Mann used to. Turning it into a doomed megapolis of light and vice. Shooting the ground level unglamorious neighborhoods of The Valley and Echo Park as well as I’ve seen them represented. There is that sense of dislocation to the film that you sometimes get when a European director makes his first film in America. Like Wim Wenders Paris Texas, another film that Drive shares a fair amount of DNA with, Drive takes in its setting and action with a kind of bewildered wonder. There’s a presence to the film, aided by Cliff Martinez’s hypnotic score a low key dread that is not quite like anything I’ve seen in a crime film before. A mixture of fatalism, icy Euro remove and iconic cinematic badassery.
Simply put Drive is a magnetic film, it keeps drawing you back into itself. It’s the little moments that I keep returning to. The way Refn keeps the camera centered on Gosling, so when he reacts to something you have no idea just what he’s reacting to. Or touches like the opening scene where you think you’re getting a humanizing detail about The Driver (Lakers fan) until it is revealed, nope also part of the plan.
Drive is the type of film that energizes me as a cinephile. The sort of film where you see a set of aims accomplished perfectly, with the flair, confidence and rock solid landing of a professional gymnast.