I saw the movie trailer for Drive in early 2011. I was astounded. It looked like it was going to be a fantastic action film. I should it to my friend Erika and she agreed, which is a really strange thing. She rarely likes the same movies as I do and to here her excitement over this movie filled me with glee. Finally a movie that she would like. The film follows a getaway driver in L.A. as he falls in love and faces some criminal opposition. I went to see Drive the first weekend it came out (Erika did not see it despite the dozens of time I asked her to go, she was in a weird mood). I was completely unprepared for the movie at hand. Like most of the films that really grab me, its is full of contradictions. This isn’t an action film, but it is. It realistic, despite being surrealistic. A gangster movie, a love story, a western, a superhero movie, a coming of age film. All of these things and more.
Normally I would post the movie trailer here, but I don’t think that would be a good idea. Despite how it was the initial thing that made me want to see the film, it pretty much spoils everything and it is not a good representation of the tone. The trailer is so different from the film that a women even tried to sue the film company for false advertisement. I don’t think it’s a sue worthy offense, but the trailer is a little odd. So, please don’t watch the trailer. Instead watch this clip from the film.
This movie is quiet and reserved. The first half is essentially a study in minimalism. Ryan Gosling’s unnamed Driver barely speaks. His responses are short and quick, never divulging much more than is needed. The speaking pace of the Driver is also very slow and nearly monotone. He is so restrained in this performance. Gosling places the emphasis on his body language and facial expressions, which are just as subtle as every other aspect of his acting style in the film. It creates a mystery around the character and builds up what will eventually become a contrast between how the driver presents himself and what he is capable of. Because everything about Gosling’s performance is so minimalistic, everything becomes important. In the following clip, Gosling does so much more with a slight smile than a hundred words could ever do.
The clip also featured Carrie Mulligan and Bryan Cranston, whose performances are very good. Cranston’s role is energetic and talkative, placing him on the opposite side of the Gosling subtly. Cranston is not annoying or over the top, but rather the yin to Gosling’s yang. Mulligan’s performance would be considered understated in any other film, but she fall right in between Gosling and Cranston in terms of tone. The rest of cast holds up there own as well, but Albert Brooks performance is the stand out of the supporting roles. Brooks, who is most well known for his comedic qualities, is a monster here. He has done some serious films (He’s great in Out of Sight), but he is never as menacing and frightening as he is here.
The directing and cinematography is also amazing in this film. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn uses the minimalism perfectly in the first half of the film. It slow pace is mesmerizing. His decision to imbed an 80’s electronic type soundtrack and title credits displace the film in time. It is seem like it is modern day, but Refn creates a very different world in his film. Gosling has gone as far as saying that the film is a violent John Hughes movie. Around the mid point, Refn shifts from minimalism and places a very surrealistic tone on the film. It’s no surprise that he dedicated the film to Alejandro Jodorowsky, a director known for hyper surrealist and absurd films. The surrealism the is peppered in the final half of Drive is not as in your face as Jorodowsky’s style, but it is certainly noticeable. Scenes of intense physical violence are lovingly shot and juxtaposed with uncaring statuesque reactions. The music, which is a pumping electronic soundtrack throughout the film, is mysteriously replaced by a haunting operatic composition in one scene that features an unsettling choice of disguise.
When I saw this film, the theater was two thirds full. During the quiet section of the film, the audience was very talkative and was laughing at some of the lighthearted moments. Gosling’s performance also elicited some confused chuckles because of his very anti-social behavior. But almost exactly at the half way mark every shut up, stopped moving around, stopped chattering for the rest of the film. They sat in silent awe of what was progressing on the screen.