Watched Nov 11, 2011
Matthew Buchanan’s review:
The tech writer John Gruber is fond of a Kubrick quote about the truth of a thing being in the feel of it rather than the think of it, a phrase that for me perfectly explains the appeal of Nicolas Winding Refn’s noirish adaptation of the James Sallis novel. Right from the first hotel room scene, through a near wordless 15-minute opening stanza, the foreboding atmosphere of an after-hours, back-streets Los Angeles takes hold. The ambient, minimal score by Cliff Martinez blends with deftly selected French electro-pop to deliver a moody, European sensibility that extends through the production design, colour palette and camera work.
Flashes of sharp violence punctuate the film but are short-lived, like those in the fairy tales from which the director has drawn inspiration. Comparisons have been made with David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, but the film is tonally closer to Lost Highway, with its mildly existential leanings, transformative subtext and generous use of electronic music in tandem with overpowered vehicles. But Drive, to its service, is less weird and more literal than Lynch’s entire back catalogue (with the exception of his Disney masterpiece).
Ryan Gosling is typically understated, and his scenes with Carey Mulligan provide an effortless chemistry. Albert Brooks, playing steadfastly against type as an embattled mobster, brings both pathos and menace to the character of Bernie Rose. Drive is a lush, cinematic indulgence that by most rational scales would not achieve a perfect score. And yet it seems petty to award it anything less. It looks — and feels — unnervingly good, and sounds even better. It’s the film hot-pink Mistral was made for. Pass my driving gloves.