Review: Drive

For all of its 80’s noir stylings, lavish visuals & pitch perfect soundtrack the thing that you will probably remember the most coming away from Drive is Ryan Gosling’s coat. This is arguably the most hideous piece of clothing to grace a screen since Bridget Jones bunny ears & belly pants. At least in Miss Jones defence that outfit caused her some degree of embarrassment. Ryan Gosling’s unnamed driver wears the offending item of clothing throughout the entirety of Drive. Even when it is covered in both his & other people’s blood Gosling’s character insists on keeping it wrapped around his person, despite the fact that it implicates him in any number of crimes against people as well as fashion.

That said however the scorpion jacket brings to mind (quite possibly on purpose) the fable of the Frog & the Scorpion. In this tale the Frog agrees to carry the Scorpion across the river as long as it doesn’t sting him, but when the Scorpion can’t help himself & stings the frog anyway – dooming them both. Before they sink the Frog turns to the Scorpion & asks him why he would do such a thing to which the Scorpion replies “because it’s in my nature”.  You know that story right (Turns out I didn’t & only found out about it by accident by watching a video on our Tumblr)? This fable however speaks volumes about the film’s Driver With No Name: A stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver, operating under his own code in strict compliance with antihero regulations. Something which is actually quite handy considering that The Driver is a strong, mostly silent type who says very little throughout the course of the film, which sees him leaping (& driving) to the defence of his Neighbour Irene & her son when they fall foul of some of Los Angeles less savoury characters.

Given that the plot to Drive sounds like it could easily have come off the back of a straight to video VHS action thriller it is a credit to both screenwriter Hossein Amini & director Nicolas Winding Refn that the film of James Sallis’ 2005 novella is instead a beautiful slow burn character piece that has a perfect balance of style & substance. While the script to Drive may be a little too economical for some tastes, it ensures that what lines there are carry a huge amount of weight, each one often  implying far more than it says. This of course would all be for naught if the rest of the people involved weren’t up to the job, but Winding Refn shows that he is more than capable. Under his direction Drive is a noir drenched love letter to the 80’s written in day-glo fonts & published in lights across the Los Angeles skyline. While such stylings could easily have dated Drive instead they lend it a sense of timelessness. It is only the occasional glimpse of a smart phone or a comment about the lack of ashtrays that lend the film any sense of modernity.

It is not just the script & direction that make Drive worth watching though, it is also the performances. Ryan Gosling, constantly chewing on a toothpick, delivers a spot on performance as The Driver – A man struggling against his inner nature – in a role that many of his peers would have most likely struggled with. It is not only Gosling that is worth watching however, Carey Mulligan elevates her role as Neighbour Irene from a vulnerable damsel in distress to a much more venerable & affecting character. The relationship between the two leads is so tenderly portrayed throughout that understated doesn’t even begin to describe it. Rarely with so few lines has so much been conveyed.

It should be pointed out that while Drive is a heavily stylised film with a slow build of tension on the side when the movie does finally get round to the action it does so with great enthusiasm & astonishingly brutal realism. While the action scenes never outnumber the talky ones (which in turn never outnumber the silent ones) Drive is not a film for the squeamish. For those of you that enjoy a little ultra violence though I have three words.

Best. Headshot. Ever.

In conclusion Drive feels like it belongs in another decade, while it is in many ways a modern movie it has all the hallmarks of a classic film of yesteryear. which is appropriate because in time Drive will undoubtedly be considered just that: A classic. I for one would be willing to bet money that a future Grand Theft Auto game will feature a mission riffing on Drive in much the same way that the previous titles have borrowed inspiration from films like Heat or Scarface. I just hope they let you wear a better jacket whilst doing it.