Film Review: Drive (2011)
My Rating: 5 craft beers on a 6-pack scale (5 ½ if you have an awesome 7.1 sound system).
Runtime: 100 mins
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
First off I’m compelled to share that it is my belief that anything featuring Ryan Gosling should be considered guilty pleasure entertainment. I don’t know why that is exactly. He’s far from the greatest thespian to ever grace the silver screen. He delivers dialogue like he’s ordering a pizza and he has one move: a slowly forming smile coupled with a squint. Still I have enjoyed nearly everything I’ve ever seen him in. I wish I could put exactly why into words but I can’t at this time so I won’t even attempt the hunt.
On to Drive.
A wannabe race car driver spends his days stunt driving for movie productions and his nights driving the “getaway” car for those requiring his special skills. He also appears to make some money as a mechanic but money doesn’t seem to be his driving force (more on that later…and spoiler free as always). There is a married neighbor and some complications with some organized crime folks. Trouble ensues. And there is driving.
Drive was a difficult film to review despite my abject love for it. I saw it the first time streaming on Netflix. Then a month or two later it arrived in the mail via the Netflix mailer because I forgot to take it off my disc queue (SIDENOTE: Yes I still get discs mailed to me. Not everything streams and Blu-ray is simply the best media. Period.) I wasn’t bothered by the arrival of the disc bearing envelope as it gave me another excuse to watch and HEAR the flick but this time in full 7.1 surround. I’m glad I wasn’t paying close attention to my queue because listening to the Blu-ray audio really introduced a new character I would have otherwise missed in the background minutiae.
This character was the sound and, to state simply, it was incredible.
This is perhaps one of the best films in recent years to take full advantage of a musical score, creative song placement, and outright sound. It more than made up for the near wooden performance by Gosling. You will certainly enjoy the “family” drive down the concrete L.A. River. I simply love the music that plays during this scene. It feels like a warm memory of a surreal family picnic. Another scene that takes full advantage of a plus musical score should perhaps have been mentioned first as it is the opening. The first time I heard this play I looked up from whatever was distracting me (iPad, dog in my lap, etc.) in wonder. Had I turned on the wrong movie? I wondered to myself. Nope. It’s Drive, it says so on the screen. Now I’d heard Drive receive positive reviews from trusted friends and even trusted family (trusted in that they are movie fans with somewhat discernable tastes) but still I took a long time getting to it. Too long I now freely admit.
I keep mentioning it but this is a film to watch simply for the sound. I know…I’m beating a dead horse here, cloning it, raising it, and then to die of natural causes only to beat that dead horse yet again.
Remember no spoilers so I won’t go into details while mentioned the vaunted elevator scene. It is one of the sweetest – yeah I said sweetest – and yet most horrifying scenes I can recall viewing in recent memory. There. I mentioned it. No spoilers. Proceed.
The scene with Ron Perlman on the beach also stands out because of the near lack of sound. If I were to give an Oscar performance for Drive I would award it to the sound/music folks for sure.
So the sound was awesome (have I mentioned that yet?). Now the acting…yeah…the acting. There had to be some of that in Drive, right? And there was. Kinda. Gosling was only a vehicle (pardon the terrible, terrible pun) for the incredible music/sound and the rather interesting story. He neither added a great deal nor subtracted same from the movie. But, because he’s Ryan Gosling, you just sorta buy him, due to his presence, simply because he doesn’t get in the way of the story much. And because he’s Ryan Gosling. Could other actors perhaps have added more? Sure. Maybe. It was a tough character to play because, other than a couple allusions to such, he near completely lacks character depth. That’s not to say the entire cast goes the same however. Carey Mulligan was rather strong as a wife held hostage by her sense of responsibility and honor while at the same time longing for something else, something more. She really sold a woman that wanted to scream but accepted that it would do very little. So she kept it bottled up like a good Irish gal. Good girl. Keep that bottled up. Very healthy. But, really you can see she has limited choice, especially because she has a young son to consider. The performance by the almost cookie cutter bad guys, played by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman, was certainly a weakness and so was the lack of screen time for Bryan Cranston.
A law should be passed that every movie Cranston is cast in, from now until the day after forever, needs to give his character twice as many lines and screen time as anyone else would be allotted. Did I say he is a fantastic actor? Well he is.
Watch Drive but even more important…hear Drive. I’m going to go and pop it into the PS3 right now (yeah I added it to the official collection).