Film Review Drive (2011)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn (2011)
I watched Drive with my mother, the same mother who got an Ipad for her birthday, chose Source Code as her birthday film and didn’t sell me as a baby to fund her postnatal crack addiction. I’m still coming to terms with having a cool mum.
Before I go any further I need to declare a conflict of interest;
- Drive stars Ryan Gosling, an actor who can do no wrong in my eyes
That, admittedly less than stellar intro out the way, I’ll now review Drive (2011), plot summary first,
Ryan Gosling plays The Driver, an incredibly quiet part-time mechanic for the dad from Malcolm In The Middle/stunt car driver for the movies/getaway driver for the crooks, who finds his life, despite the expected thrills of being a gangster/stunt-driver/mechanic, is little more than tedious. This begins to change when he starts a sort-of relationship with his neighbour Sally Sparrow, I mean Irene (Carey Mulligan who may soon carry a conflict of interest of her own), a single mother whose husband’s in jail. The two become close, the dad from Malcolm In The Middle (Bryan Cranston to give him his due respect) gets close to two big time Jewish crooks and Drive gets close to being one of the all-time greats. Then Irene’s husband returns home and everything spirals out of control, literally and figuratively.
Actually, out of control is more than a bit unfair, the second half of Drive is a decent watch, complete with utensils held at eyes, shoot outs and one unlucky man having his head stomped to pieces, in fact were Drive entirely like it’s second half it’d still be a decent film, but the fact is it isn’t. The first half of Drive is some of the most engrossing, poignant and emotional cinema I’ve seen, and it blows the second half out of the water, making it look all the more weaker.
There’s an almost perfect intro in which The Driver attempts to safely transport two robbers while the police search for them, then there’s his chance meeting with Irene, where he barely says anything and then a whole load of scenes involving him and the mechanic/crime world where he emotes as little as possible, coming off as charming and slightly unsettling to all around him. Gosling is amazing in this role, and he really creates a charming sympathetic character, that, despite seeming like a head case comes off as sympathetic and more than a little helpless.
This starts changing around the time Irene’s husband comes home and by the end The Driver can’t stop talking about his feelings, which is fine, but completely kills an exquisitely built character that easily could have carried the whole film. The second problem with this is that the casting in Drive is pitch perfect, not one actor is weak and all of them deserve a heap of praise, but by the end The Driver spends so time emoting that we don’t get any time to see anyone else’s motivation or contribution, 2010’s sexiest woman in the world, Christina Hendricks plays this character Blanche, who gets introduced around the time The Driver starts going into expressive overdrive and as a result I can’t really tell you a thing about how she fitted in, why she did anything or who she was. It’s all very frustrating, and to top that off there’s a real over reliance on synthesised music (funnily enough the worst example coming in the otherwise perfect opening sequence) which gets a bit tedious, you don’t have to constantly use lyrics about heroes to make me think a characters a hero!
However, with a rueful glance at the floor and more than a little guilt on my conscience, I hold my hands up, I’m nit-picking, I’ve reviewed a lot worse films and let them get away with a lot less, and Drive is a good film, it’s just this could have been an absolutely amazing film, it started out as an absolutely amazing film and then lost something of itself. I know it’s based on a novel, and from what I’ve read is fairly faithful, but sometimes that isn’t enough. Pedantic points aside, not all films are equal, some will never have a chance to shine, or will be little more than niche fodder, or will never rise above to a certain taste, or be directed by Tony Scott, but a chosen few have the potential to become events that anchor themselves into history, becoming a film representative of their year in the process. Driver had it all going for it, it was smart, intelligent, witty, handsome and open minded, but the teenage years hit hard and it never quite got over its rage, now its middle aged and sat on the waterfront next to Marlon Brando telling anyone who’ll listen it could have been a contender.
This could have been one of my favourite films, it’s certainly half one of my favourite films, but it let itself down, and strangely, even though I still enjoyed it, this makes Drive a more disappointing film than The Three Musketeers, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes or Déjà vu. Is this a positive or a negative review? I can’t decide.
Sam ‘I quite enjoy the tedium of being a part-time filmmaker/assistant at crappy supermarket/all-round awesome human being’ McKinstrie