Wednesday’s What You Should Watch – Drive
This is going to sound weird, but as I watched “Drive” I couldn’t help but have this really overwhelming feeling of happiness. It’s not that it’s a happy movie by any stretch of the imagination, but I was happy because it was just SO DAMN GOOD. And the beautiful part of it is, it doesn’t seem like it’s even trying. Let me say that it is a TRAVESTY that this film wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. In a slate of 5 films, maybe it doesn’t deserve to make the cut, but when you have films like “War Horse” and “District 9” garnering nominations, and a film like “Gladiator” winning Best Picture, I don’t quite understand why “Drive” couldn’t pick up a nomination this year. Anyway, that’s water under the bridge, but I am urging you to SEE this movie. Put simply, “Drive” is a subtle, and brutally violent (oxymoron, sort of, but not really) film about a mysterious stunt man who gets caught up in a heist gone wrong.
It’s been talked about as a “noir”, but to me it’s more of an exercise in the “anti-hero” genre, that takes place in a world of crime, with a really clever nod to horror movie serial killers. The film I keep thinking of when I think about “Drive”, is David Cronenberg‘s “Eastern Promises” which was also slow, deliberate, and had some very violent scenes. I realize I’m sort of getting off track and ranting, but writing these reviews for me is basically an exercise in thought, so you’ll have to follow along.
So yes, the violence. There are some very violent scenes, but they are spaced out so well, balanced by an 80s score, eerily romantic shots of Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, and great dialogue, that when we see them, they are shocking, but they aren’t over the top. They are scenes that belong in the world the characters inhabit. They make sense that they would happen that way. And so they belong, they are key parts of the film because they give us insight into character.
The characters in this film are in a way, cutouts that you would expect, for example Bryan Cranston as “The Kid’s” right hand man, who makes cars and basically helps him out with whatever he needs. We have Carey Mulligan as a vulnerable woman. Some didn’t like her casting but I thought her stature and demeanor is perfect for the role. And we’ve got Ron Perlman, basically being Ron Perlman, and I don’t mean in a “Hellboy” kind of way, but more like a “Sons of Anarchy” way. But the best roles are really Ryan Gosling and Albert Brooks. When you watch Albert Brooks, particularly when he’s using a fork in a bad way, it’s hard to remember that he was the father in “Finding Nemo” but here he is. Violent, bad-mouthed, perfect for the role. Ryan Gosling is perfect as the nameless driver, because he’s got a good looking, but almost soft and feminine quality about his face. He isn’t huge and muscled, he doesn’t look like an action star (and really in this movie, he isn’t one at all) but he looks like a quiet, reserved, guy. He is probably capable of emotion and feeling, but we also see that he got to where he is for a reasons that are never stated, but he belongs in the world he inhabits.
I will admit that I saw this movie AFTER I heard a lot of the hype, so I wanted to like it. That may have some bearing on how I feel, but I’ve been disappointed by movies before and can admit when I don’t like something even though I REALLY want to. This is not one of those films. It’s one of the best movies of the year, one of the best of its genre, and will become a classic.
One final note, the car chases are very well done. There’s almost no quesy cams, the action is well directed, well-shot, and we can actually tell what’s going on during the chase. Also, “Joan” from Mad Men is in this film, but if I didn’t know it going in, I probably wouldn’t have recognized her.