Rewatched Aug 19, 2012
Despite this being my second favourite in all of cinematic history and having watched it seven times, I've never given it a proper review. Shocking, right? So, better remedy this...
Drive is amazing. Plain and simple, straight-up. It's certainly the most attractive film that's grounded in reality. It's the most violent yet excellent film of all time. It's tender, sweet, stark, nasty, romantic, sickening, thrilling, emotional, slick, gory, brutal, slow and most definitely exciting. Those adjectives may not occur or flow in that particular order but Drive is a blended mix of them all; everything that you could ever want in a movie if you're a true movie lover.
It's features aren't the only things that have been mashed, but the genres have too. The first half is a chaste romance, a slight, swooning seduction between Driver (Ryan Gosling, in a performance which he will have to work hard to beat) and Irene (a delicate Carey Mulligan) that edges them closer to oblivion; an inevitable event that will occur when Irene's husband, Standard (basically an extended cameo from Oscar Isaac), returns home from prison with a massive debt. This is when the genres change. As soon as Driver agrees to help Standard pay off his debt, this is a full-blown, rip-snorting beast of a crime thriller, making all of the violence graphically portrayed even more shocking through the (literal) u-turn in the road/plot. Driver is left with one million dollars, a trail of bodies (two shot, one impaled, one decapitated) and the very angry duo of Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman chasing after him and his accidentally ill-gotten money.
Not that Driver's one to run away from a fight; he does everything he can to ensure that Irene is safe and cannot be linked to the robbery, including attacking gangsters with little more than a single bullet, a hammer and the sole of his boot.
Gosling's Driver is the epitome of cool, not least of all because he's so effortless in the way he drives, walks and wears his bizarrely fashionable satin jacket (that is horrifically damaged by the finale, sadly). To say he's the coolest character in the movies is an understatement, as he's the blend of every iconic loner/bad-ass there is (Bullitt and the Man with No Name are the most noticable). Gosling commands the screen with very little dialogue and subtle facial expressions, marking him as a presence to look out for in the future.
Albert Brooks as Bernie Rose, Driver's acquaintance then nemesis, nearly equals Gosling with his hissable, despicable villain that takes the back seat for most of the movie's duration, and then creeps up to haunt our hero in the final act. The shift in tone from his usual performances (he's Nemo's dad for goodness sake!) makes his villainy all the more disturbing; this is the only movie where you're going see a Pixar favourite repeatedly stabbing a man in the throat with a chef's knife!
But it isn't just the stars who are the stars here; cult director Nicolas Winding Refn brings a freshness to the American thriller, a European liberty and sensibility that isn't normally found outside his usual fare (shockingly violent and psychological dramas). He's brought a Danish revolution stateside, something that more directors and movie-makers should really pick up on.
Refn directs cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel to create a different interpretation of LA that is almost dream-like; the skyscrapers that light up the sky, the '100,000' streets snaking their way through the seemingly sleepless city. The first shot of the night sky is a breath-taker, a truly beautiful image of the glossed-over criminal underworld that is Los Angeles.
To go with this stunning image is Cliff Martinez's genius soundtrack. The opening 'Tick of the Clock' by the Chromatics is a pulsing, tense, repetitive masterpiece that sums up the tightly-wound, ultra-cool mood of Drive, signifying that the electro revolution of the new generation's soundtracks is here to stay.
Put all of those factors together, and you have the perfect movie. If you haven't seen Drive, then I urge you to go out and see it. Even if you don't like it (some have shunned it badly), I don't mind, the fact that you've basked in the pink-neon glory of this masterpiece is good enough for me.