Reviewed Mar 21, 2012
Adam Cook’s review:
It's not always easy to tell at what point you fall in love with a film, normally it just creeps up on you but on rare occasions you can pinpoint it exactly. Watching Drive that point came with the introduction of the first musical note, a mere minute into the movie. I can't explain why, it wasn't even particularly memorable looking back at it, but it was the moment that I knew I was going to be Nicolas Winding Refn's bitch and I was happy wherever he wanted to lead me. Drive is very much a movies movie, a film drenched in filmic references of the past yet still feeling utterly fresh and contemporary. The comparisons with '80s era Michael Mann are inescapable (particularly Thief) in its deliberate and pitch-perfect pacing, minimal dialogue and air of undeniable cool. Yet at its heart it is perhaps closest to the George Stevens' classic Western, Shane, thankfully without the irritating child in tow. But for all the elements it cribs from other films it still stands on its own. It shares the style of Mann but is no mere imitator, the story may be markedly similar to Shane but there is an original twist to the classic tale.
Drive is a rather deceptive film. Your immediate response is to the surface details; the beautiful cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel or the perfectly judged score and soundtrack choices. These distractions and the simple narrative can divert you away from how expertly the editing is used to reflect the mental state of the Driver (notice how even when driving fast the car always appears to be coasting until a job goes wrong and he is taken out of his comfort zone. It is only then that the true speed is shown on screen) or how much is said with so few words. These are not deep characters, to the point where Driver's development is expressed most clearly through a garment of clothes as he transforms from the frog to scorpion, but they are performed so beautifully it doesn't matter. The romantic relationship between Driver and Irene (another great Mulligan performance) bristles with both tension and passion, she presents more danger than any robbery or film stunt yet also provides the safety and hope that Driver has removed from his life. These aren't new story ideas but few films have delivered them with such style and efficiency before. The punctuation of bloody violence is shocking but never gratuitous, which is surprising considering just how graphic it is in places. Instead it fits both the world of the film and the character of Driver as words were never going to solve his problems.
Like all the best things in life, Drive will not be loved by all. It is a film that will win you over early or not at all (I should know, the other people I saw it with hated it) but if it does grab hold you'll be hard pressed to find many better films this or any other year.