Just saw Drive Sunday evening, and it was better than I even expected. I wanted to see it since I first saw trailers for it, then reviews came in that were mostly all positive on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. I was even more curious to see it at that point. It had a stellar cast and an interesting trailer, so I figured why not. So here’s my thoughts and break down on it if you’re trying to decide to see it or not (or if you want an honest opinion on it and not wanting to read a 5 page article just to get an opinion on a specific aspect of it, like the writing, directing, etc.)
PLOT- It follows Ryan Goslings character as “Driver” who serves as a getaway driver for heist crews, works as a part time stuntman, and an auto mechanic. His friend and employer in those jobs is played by Bryan Cranston as Shannon, who is a guy that always has bad luck, he’s in rough shape and gets involved with the wrong things. He tries to get a crime figurehead, Bernie, played by Albert Brooks, to invest into a race car business with Ryan Gosling as the driver. Bernie also has things going on the side with criminals like Ron Perlman, who plays Nino. Ryan Gosling forms a semi-love interest with his neighbor, played by Carey Mulligan as Irene, and gets involved with her and her childs life. He finds out that her husband Standard (weird name, I thought so too) is coming home from jail and is trying to clean up his act. Things don’t work out and Ryan Gosling has to intervene to set things right. He executes his role perfectly and has such an excellent supporting cast. I’ve always liked Ryan Gosling, but he truly captures the mysteriousness of his character.
There are quite a few long silences and awkward interactions, but I found that it only enforces the atmosphere and tone that the movie set. It’s a real atmospheric driven, suspenseful thriller, yet it’s real subtle with pacing. The opening was brilliant, suspenseful, and just real low key. In my opinion, its actually one of the better openings for a film i’ve seen in a long time.
CINEMATOGRAPHY- The cinematography really captured the melancholy tone of the movie. It’s real dark, but brilliantly lit where it needs to be, capturing the intensity and the softness of the movie at the same time. You can tell they really thought about the cinematography on this one. It helps set the dreary tone for the movie and works on every level. Newton Thomas Sigel serves as the DP, who worked on The Usual Suspects and the X-Men movies. This seems to be his first attempt at an art-house type shots, but he nailed it. If there will be any Oscar nods to this movie, I hope cinematography is one of them. Easily one of the years best.
ACTING- Performances in this movie are dead on. Nothing seems out of place or out of character. It’s like pieces of a clock, everything fits together and everything works in unison, which makes everything work on a larger scale, as this movie does. Carey Mulligan and Ryan Gosling are excellent in the screen time they share together, they have a certain troubled chemistry, but it works rather well. Even the unlucky character played by Bryan Cranston is phenomenal in the screen time he has interacting with Gosling, Brooks, and others. Overall, I wasn’t disappointed.
WRITING- The movie is adapted from the book “Drive” by James Sallis, which I havent read, so I don’t know how the film compares to the book. Oscar nominated screenwriter Hossein Amini (The Wings of The Dove- 1997) took the task of adapting the book into the screenplay. Having not read the book, I can only imagine that Amini captured the essence of the book and only breathed life into the characters as the writer, James Sallis, intended. Certain dialogue and interactions have this uneasiness and awkwardness to it, which I know some people won’t like, but for me, it fits and even sets the tone perfectly. The pacing may also be too slow for some, but the bursts of intensity only amplifies the importance of those slow moments. I think the pace wouldn’t work as well any other way. It’s in those slow moments that characters can really shine and develop, as well as help set the mood. The suspense and thrill with the soft and subtle undertones of the atmosphere work flawlessly together. It’s a perfect blend.
DIRECTING- Nicolas Winding Refn serves as the director and IMDB reveals that he hasn’t really been a director in anything nearly as big as this. I recognize Valhalla Rising- 2009, but haven’t seen that one. Outside of that, I have to say this is a crowning achievement for him. Being able to handle such a big name cast and work on the scope and scale that this movie presents itself in is truly remarkable. I hope he keeps this up, I would certainly be looking forward to seeing future projects by him.
SCORE/SOUNDTRACK- This is probably one unique feature of the film. The songs have an 80’s synth-retro vibe to it. It’s modern sounds with those 80s retro bits. At the same time, there are a lot of other subtle sounds that enhance the scene or mood. Think “The Social Network”. The opening of Drive is a perfect example, it has a real subtle beat playing throughout the opening sequence that’s real droning and suspenseful. Those sounds working with the night time setting, low lighting, and excellent cinematography certainly flow with ease.
Although, the film itself gives off an 80’s type vibe. The music, certain outfits and costume choices that have a retro feel to it, and the font to Drive. The font and music is dead give away to the 80’s retro feel, the outfits/costumes are a little bit more subtle. The font is reminiscent of a John Hughes movie, like Uncle Buck or Breakfast Club. I remember reading somewhere that Refn was a fan of those 80’s movies, so that could’ve influenced and explain those retro references and choices in Drive.
SUMMARY- Overall, the elements that I have discussed blend flawlessly together to craft one of, what I think to be, one of the top movies of the year. It’s suspenseful, it’s a thriller, it has well placed action, it’s a disjointed drama with a fragile love story, it’s hypnotic and atmospheric, it’s well written, directed, shot, and acted. Even the oddly selected score/soundtrack work for it. This is certainly bound for Oscar bait and wouldn’t be surprised to see a few nods. I think likely categories would be screenwriting and cinematography, but best picture, best actor (Ryan Gosling) nods aren’t too far fetched, just not as likely. Going out on a limb, it’s not inconceivable to see some nods for best directing (Refn) and best supporting actress (Carey Mulligan), Mulligan probably has a better chance than Refn.
If you’re debating to see it or not, I say go for it. I can see why some people won’t like it because of some awkward interactions, dialogue, and somewhat odd pacing, but I’m on the side that thinks it, for the most part, works better for this movie, makes it stand out and makes it unique. It contributes to the tone and setting, and most importantly, it works. Regardless, you can’t deny the fact that there was a lot of effort and care that went into the making of this movie. That alone makes it stand out in all the crap and remakes that are pushed out now days. It’s refreshing to see that movies like this can still be made and maybe that not all is lost just yet.
RATING- 4.5/5. I give it 4.5 because of certain (not all) dialogue awkwardness and pacing issues that do seem out of place. But those minor flaws are more than easily made up by various factors, like the excellent acting that carries those scenes, the gentle/soft interactions, the beautiful cinematography, or bursts of intensity that certainly makes up for the slow parts.
IMDB: 8.6/10 based on 14,231 users, Metascore- 79/100. 223 User reviews 214 critic, 40 from Metacrtic
Rotten Tomatoes: 93% Critic, certified fresh. 79% Audience.
Box office income as of 9/26/11: $21.4 million.
Budget: 13,000,000 estimated.