I had heard a lot about ‘Drive’ before getting around to seeing it. I remember the striking posters all over the underground with a moody looking Ryan Gosling sat atop the bonnet of an American muscle car and the magenta ‘Mistral’ font – nicely carried through to the film’s opening credits. The whole branding and image are very reminiscent of an 80’s movie but incorporating the lessons learned from the last two decades in form and restraint, giving the film a timeless and classical feel – as with most things I remember from the 80’s that are now vogue!

A lot of people talked about the film and the soundtrack in the same breath – I agree that it adds a huge amount to the film, more than any in recent history and surely the mark of any good auteur in the making. I would suggest it’s worth picking up the soundtrack alongside the DVD/Blu-ray to save you the inevitable wait as you will by the soundtrack after watching the film. The soundtrack features a minimal yet moving synth-based score by Cliff Martinez and standout tracks from Kavinsky, College, Desire and Electric Youth – that punctuate key moments in the narrative.

The film centres on the story of a getaway driver who works part-time as a stunt driver and also a mechanic at a garage. The nameless ‘Driver’, played by a quietly menacing Ryan Gosling, starts the film in a getaway drive. This is what the film does best – when one of the few opportunities arises – and the car chases are incredibly tense and well choreographed without being loud and brash. The tension is underpinned by a terrific synth score by Cliff Martinez that is equally menacing yet minimal. To bring the audio and visual even closer together, director Refn has edited scenes to the music so the two synchronise perfectly thus lending the whole film a massive dose of rhythm and impact.

Working with his employer/partner, Shannon (the always excellent Bryan Cranston), who’s constant talking helps to reveal much about the bordering on mute ‘Driver’, we are shown the three areas of driving that constitute his life. ‘Driver’s’, lonely life as a getaway driver, mechanic and stunt man contrasts with his relatively non-existent personal life. To compound his lack of personal ties, every time ‘Driver’ completes a getaway job, he ups sticks to a new location. His latest apartment sees him bumping into young single mother, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her adorable son Benicio (Kaden Los). A few meetings later they become friends while the underlying romantic tension between Irene and ‘Driver’ starts to develop. In a touching scene ‘Driver’ takes Irene and Benicio for a drive to a secret ‘oasis’ at the end of a storm drain that shows how his life is inextricably linked to driving and cues some more of that beautiful soundtrack while the director shows he doesn’t just do dark, neon and moody, with interplay between light and water and the three actors.

The second half of the films sees a turn for the grittier as Irene’s previously incarcerated husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac) turns up with a string of debtors and mobsters in tow. Fronted by the vocal Nino (Perlman) and the sadistic Bernie (a startling turn from Albert Brooks) the young family are threatened unless Standard participates in a final heist. This is where the young family and ‘Driver’s’ life take a dramatic turn and indeed for me where the movie changes gear to something less enigmatic.

I won’t reveal too much, needless to say there is inevitable carnage, but the second half of the film doesn’t live up to the promise of the first half. The direction is still incredible with the perfectly choreographed and edited scenes giving a sense of desperation as the characters collide. Refn’s clever camerawork, right up until the last shot, emphasises why the film is so loved but the narrative languishes and becomes fairly generic. Had the film gone down a less-trodden path I would be raving about the new Tarantino but as it is, it manages to rise above the average purely because of the director’s ample talent and the fierce soundtrack.

The acting is excellent all round. Ron Perlman is type-cast and therefore presents nothing of note but Gosling evokes all the marks of a modern day Steve McQueen with great support from Cranston, Carey Mulligan and top performances from the young Kaden Leos as Benicio and Albert Brooks as Bernie, the gangster you wouldn’t like to meet.

Director: Nicholas Winding Refn

Driver – Ryan Gosling
Irene – Carey Mulligan
Shannon – Bryan Cranston
Bernie Rose – Albert Brooks
Standard – Oscar Isaac
Blanche – Christina Hendricks
Nino – Ron Perlman
Benicio – Kaden Leos

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About Imran Behlim

I'm a mature kid into all things 80's, video games, movies, comics, books, music, trainers and anything that distracts me from the fear-mongering and paranoia of the mainstream media.