Drive (2011)

“You know the story about the scorpion and the frog?

First up and out of the gate is Ryan Gosling in Drive. This is actually the first I’ve seen of Gosling as an actor, although there are a couple more movies on The List starring The Gos (as I’ve just decided to call him.) Bottom line up top, this movie was fantastic and I’m very sorry that I’ve waited this long to see it. It’s incredibly stylish, to the point that it risks becoming overly so, but dodges that risk and stays fantastic instead. Gosling’s nameless driver is a supremely interesting character. It’s not often that you see a socially-awkward cinematic badass, but that’s what you get here.  Gosling manages to simultaneously bring charm and a sense of menace to the character. I’m conditioned to expect characters in this type of role to be some combination of wise-cracking, smooth-talking or completely psycho, but the Driver is none of those things. Well, maybe he’s a little bit psycho, but I don’t think that’s who he really is, but rather it’s like the character is just acting the part. It’s  a really interestingly layered performance.

Albert Brooks apparently received a lot of praise for his performance in this film, and while I certainly didn’t find anything wrong with it, I didn’t find anything special there. Ditto for Ron Perlman. The film also stars a number of actors I’m more familiar with from from their television work: Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), and Carey Mulligan (Doctor Who) are excellent in performances that really drive the Driver. Also Christina Hendricks (Mad Men, Firefly) is pretty great in her far too brief screen time.

[As an aside this is a movie called Drive with a main character called The Driver, who spends a good deal of time driving cars, and so I’m finding a little difficult not to over-use the word “drive,” while simultaneously trying to figure out what sort of style these reviews are going to take. Perhaps I should have reviewed something a little simpler for my first movie. I’ve got She’s Out Of My League sitting right here, I’m sure that’s perfectly dumb, and perfectly easy to describe without using the same word over and over… but nope, I wanted to review something good, and layered, with a character who’s name was basically the same as the movie which is also basically a verb, that describes a common action in the film, and also can be pretty darn useful in describing events in a movie that is essentially a character study.]

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the car chases and brutal violence in this movie. Given the title I really expected a lot of car chases in this movie, and really there’s only like one-and-a-half and what there is is pretty short. Exciting, but short. Exciting, but short also describes the violence in Drive, however, unlike the car chases, there was far more violence than I expected going in. There is probably less than five minutes total of violence but it is fast and brutal. No typical Hollywood fight scenes here, no sir.
The final thing I want to mention is the soundtrack, it is mesmerizing, and ultimately perfect in setting the mood for this unique film. Here’s a true story: Last weekend I was on a late night flight out of Denver it was a stormy night at the end of a long week, as the plane, which had been delayed for over an hour, finally took off, I plugged my headphones into the jack in my armrest, and caught the beginning of this strange almost ethereal song with lyrics about being a real human being and a real hero. Its not the kind of thing I’d normally listen too, but as the darkened aircraft climbed up through the thunderstorm and emerged into the last vestiges of summer twilight it seemed like the perfect soundtrack for the moment. Well, despite my intent to remember the song, I more or less forgot everything about it, except that it was very cool and moody, and that I was annoyed that I’d probably never hear it again because who the hell knows what sort of bizarre/obscure/international music gets played on those in-flight entertainment channels. Well, as it turns out they were playing the soundtrack to Drive. Specifically “A Real Hero” by College & Electric Youth. It’s great.

All in all, Drive is well worth going out of your way to see. I haven’t figured out what sort of rating system I’m going to use here as of yet, but if I had, Drive would be right near the top of it.

[Drive (2011) – Director: Nicolas Winding Refn – Rated R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity]

OM|ED Rating: Must See