|An actual reaction to Drive|
Drive opens with The Driver (Gosling) ready to take part in a heist. He doesn't help with the crime, he doesn't carry a gun, he doesn't talk to the people he's driving --- he drives. And he's the best at what he does. When he's not acting as a wheelman, The Driver is still driving. He's a part-time movie stuntman that works in a garage and cruises Los Angeles to relax. He doesn't say much, though. He just stares and waits for awkward pauses to fill most of his conversations whenever he can. Thanks to a little luck, The Driver winds up befriending his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son, Benicio.
|Hey girl. Miming masturbation with a water bottle in a hallway? Classy.|
There are many things that make Drive stand out from most films, but what caught my attention first was the intentionally minimalist portrayal of The Driver. He barely speaks, and when he does, his responses are typically odd. He is fairly free of personality and emotions. And yet, The Driver is so impossibly calm that you start to anticipate the moment where he just explodes.
|And that definitely happens|
|...and stare at, and with.|
|...but not as frightening as Driver's mask|
That Drive has so little dialogue should come as no surprise to fans of director Nicolas Winding Refn. His last film, Valhalla Rising, featured a lead actor with zero lines and no attempts to communicate. The stunning use of the soundtrack (so warm...so lush...so...oddly 80s) also fits in with his established modus operandi. In fact, most of what you notice of the direction in Drive has shown up, from time to time, in Refn's admittedly difficult filmography. What makes his work here so impressive is that Refn managed to make a compelling story with confusing but plausible emotions without ditching his distinctive style.
Still, you can definitely make some good arguments that Drive was over-hyped by critics this year. The pacing is unusual and awkward. The main character is barely relatable as a human for most of the movie. He wears an awesome, but ridiculously recognizable jacket at all times; the jacket is never ditched, even after its is covered in blood, and the scorpion stitching is never explained.
|Like Driver is going to explain anything to you|
I get all of those complaints. I really do. But they don't matter. Drive doesn't ape anyone's style, it is the logical result of many years of Nicolas Winding Refn's film evolution, and it is easily his most entertaining and accessible film. I loved the pacing and the awkwardness and the ridiculousness of The Driver; his character is, in many ways, absolutely unbelievable, but I loved his style. Drive sets the audience up to expect one type of movie, but quickly switches gears (see what I did there?) to provide almost the antithesis of the typical car chase film --- and then the shit hits the fan and The Driver starts hitting people, again upsetting expectations. This is definitely the best movie-as-art film I have seen from the past few years, and it just happens to be one of the coolest, too. The only thing keeping it from a ten in my book is the fact that I've only seen it once so far.