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Drive (2011 film)

A 2011 film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and based on the novel by James Sallis.

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Silent Driving Towards Enigmatic Modern Noir ...

  • Sep 19, 2011
Honestly, I wasn’t really expecting much when I went to see “Drive” but I knew for certain that it was one of those art house movies that critics usually like. At first impression, I thought I was going to be in for one of those movies like “The Driver” (1978) kind of deal, or something similar to Luc Besson’s “The Transporter”. I became curious because of the mixed reviews here, and to put everything in a nutshell, it feels more like “Le Samourai“ and it reminds me a lot of “The American“. “Drive” is adapted from the novel by James Sallis and is directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. The film is about a ‘driver’ as Ryan Gosling (supported by a stellar cast) plays an unnamed character who accomplishes what he needs to do; he is cold and cunning, hardly shows any emotion but does the job very well.

An unnamed character is the main protagonist in “Drive” and the title means two things; first, the drive to succeed and reach an objective, and secondly, the impressive skill he does in this job. The title also defines the unnamed lead character. He approaches his objectives as a job, he has the skill and attitude, but it is to be argued whether he likes what he does. By day, he is a stuntman for the movies, part time he works as a mechanic and by night, he drives as getaway diver for certain seedy characters whose intentions are robberies. He has certain rules and keeps to himself; his boss, Shannon (played by Bryan Cranston) in the garage also provides him with the cars he needs for his nighttime assignments, but their relationship is kept at a distance, and Shannon hardly asks any questions.

                   Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan in "Drive."

                   Carey Mulligan as Irene in "Drive."

Shannon then convinces his partners, with ties to organized crime (Played by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman) to loan them the money to buy a stock car so they could take advantage of Driver’s skills as a driver. Impressed, they seem to be on the way to having a good future on the race track. Until one day, enter a lot of ‘staring contests‘, “Driver” befriends his next door neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son, and things begin to become more complicated once her husband is paroled from prison. Seems like human relationships are about to bring “Driver” several curve balls in his life….

The root of the premise does seem complicated at first glance. But in all honesty, “Drive” has a script (written by Hossein Amini) that is so simple and whatever twists and turns seen in the film can be predictable. I did like the way the film was structured and how it flowed. It also helped that the main character seemed like a refugee from a Kim Ki-Duk Korean film since he hardly utters a word. This gives the direction plenty of room to maneuver in suggesting light expositions through expressions, emotions and for the viewer to ponder what he is watching. Driver is seen always scanning a scene as if he was thinking and planning, and only with Irene did he smile. There are hardly any unnecessary expositions, and the film is as simple as one can expect. I enjoyed the way Refn played with the idea of silence and allowed the visuals to express the emotions, with the use of light musical cues to dictate the tone and the mood of a scene. The main protagonist can be seen as a man who keeps to himself, he keeps relationships to a minimum to avoid certain complications, and in some ways it was an expression of the loneliness that may come from having such a profession.

                  Albert Brooks as Bernie Rose in "Drive."

                  Bryan Cranston as Shannon in "Drive."

                 Ron Perlman as Nino in "Drive."

If the protagonist drove the film, the supporting characters gave him some depth and definition. It seems like as soon as he opens up, he also opens himself up to potential trouble as a price to try be happy and maybe develop company. Driver’s relationship with his neighbor seemed platonic at best, I am not sure, but they never had sex, and yet it seems like Driver needed something to care about and he found such a factor satisfying in some ways. Refn plays on the ‘silent enigma’ deal as much as he could, and then he seemed to do a tonal shift when we witness the violent nature and darkness the title character seemed to have been holding back. It works, as the brutality in his actions are as cold as his driving, but whereas his driving is calculated, his violent reactions appear to be more of an explosion of emotion (the elevator scene was key in this expression). There were times that I felt that the violent and graphic nature of the film felt a little superficial and meant to merely excite the viewer, but I thought it worked in its expression of a modern noir. The film also has several intense car chases which were nicely shot; they were short and truthfully, they felt realistic enough (without any soundtrack) to display Driver’s supposed skills behind the wheel. I did spot some tributes to “Bullitt”, "Two Lane Blacktop", "Scorpio Rising" (Gosling's outfit) and “Live and Die in L.A.”, which I thought were handled well.

Honestly, the film did have some rough spots and while I liked the structure, there were times that I felt that it dragged a little on some scenes. It did play on certain areas a little too much, and I felt that the film was brooding for the sake of brooding on occasion. I do have to give credit to the performances in the film; Albert Brooks was just enthralling as Bernie Rose; he was scary and had that feverish fervor that made him scary. It was like you would know that he wasn’t anyone to be fucked with. Ron Perlman was good as Nino; but then, we all know that he does well with this type of roles. Bryan Cranston does avoid becoming a mere caricature, and supports the emotional aspects around the main character. Mulligan and Christina Hendricks (hardly any screen time) plays the damsels in distress to balance out all the machismo and enigmatic tone going around the script.

The atmosphere also captures the dark, seedy and gritty look that made the film unsettling. Shadows are often used to emote, express the mood with some sharp-tongued dialogue to give it a tough attitude. Refn does get several things right, and while I appreciate brilliance in simplicity; I am not sure, there was something that proved a tad overwrought after awhile (the "staring thing" between Mulligan and Gosling), or perhaps its predictability started to show its weaknesses. I liked the visual violence that gave it almost a grind house flavor, the chase scenes were simple but fresh and the performances were real good. I am not sure, but it felt that it came close in becoming a parody, amid all its predictability. But hey, I appreciated things about it as it appeared to be mean, bold and definitely in-your-face when it came to violence and nihilism. Then again, I always liked art house violence.

Recommended! [4- Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "Drive." Poster art for "Drive."

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September 24, 2011
I was wondering about this, great review.
September 24, 2011
It is surprisingly good. Welcome back, man. Hope everything is well on your end....
September 20, 2011
Hmmm....I wasn't really into this film before your review and now I'm slightly intrigued. Is this one you have to see in theaters or should I just wait it out?
September 21, 2011
Hard to say, Sam. I mean, I liked it quite a bit, but I am not sure just how much better would the theatrical experience be from watching it at home with a big screen TV. However, if you feel like seeing a film on a weekend I would recommend this over the other stuff....
September 20, 2011
What an awesome cast and I love this genre of films. Will have to catch it :)
September 21, 2011
It was exceptionally well acted. This is definitely for those with a fondness for arthouse crime dramas....
September 19, 2011
Very detailed review with great pictures !
September 19, 2011
Thank you for the comments, Joseph!!
September 20, 2011
You are very welcome .
September 19, 2011
I really like Gosling as an actor, but I'm kind of skeptical about him in an action/thriller role. I'll definitely be seeing this but probably not until it hits DVD.
September 19, 2011
This isn't an action thriller but rather think of it as arthouse crime noir...there is action, but it wasn't its focus.
September 19, 2011
Really? Most of the reviews and synopses compare it to the action/thrillers of the '70s and the neo-noir films that began to emerge in the '80s and '90s.
September 19, 2011
Maybe more from the 70's and the 80's than the 90's. But to see this as an action thriller is a mistake. It is moody and definitely an arthouse action drama-noir.
September 19, 2011
so what is up with the squirrel?
September 19, 2011
LOL! It's my chipmunk pal. There are two that live at my mom's plant nursery and gift shop, so being the film geek I am, I named them after my favorite film director and have been photographing and feeding them (not necessarily in that order since they refuse to come out and be sociable until they've been fed to the point of gratuity).
September 19, 2011
oh ok, I thought you were going "nuts" LOL!
September 19, 2011
Excellent review as always my friend, very nicely done. I was on the fence about seeing this movie but what can I say, I'm a sucker for a good Noir. Nicely done.
September 19, 2011
Thanks, Lopez! I myself, do enjoy some good crime noir. I do have to warn you, as much as I enjoyed it, some devices felt a little too convenient. I decided to overlook the flaws since the acting was really great and the structure was pretty neat.
September 19, 2011
As soon as I saw the trailer I knew this was going to be a hit with the critics but a hit and miss with moviegoers due to its extreme violence. Or so I've heard, but after your review this sounds like a hit and miss kind of film with more hits than misses. I'll think I'll give it a go and give you holler when I review it. I apologize if I went off base.
September 19, 2011
Don't apologize, you didn't. I just wanted to warn you that it is flawed and it is not the shining film most critics have set it up to be. I saw a lot of flaws, but you know, after all is said and done....I liked it. I am a sucker for arthouse crime noir.... ;)
September 19, 2011
Who doesn't love a good noir? Well I guess those who don't like noir. I'll make sure to keep my eyes and mind open when I see this, thank you as always for the heads up, it's much appreciated.
More Drive (2011 film) reviews
review by . March 15, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****    A lone, unnamed driver (Ryan Gosling) takes a nightly stroll through Los Angeles; with the illuminating city lights making way for the path that is the road. The Driver parks his vehicle in front of an anonymous building; and two masked men nearby proceed to enter. They emerge with a bag full of cash. They get into the Driver's car. He takes them to a parking garage; never speaking to them on the way. They don't know his name, and neither do we; but that doesn't …
review by . October 19, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
  Drive is a “love-it-or-hate-it” kind of movie, fortunately though I love it enough for several theaters full of those that full into the latter category. It’s admittedly mismarketed, and its art house sensibilities along with its strong emphasis on style is going to push plenty away expecting a more traditional thriller. However for those of us on the nerdier side of the film fence, “Drive” is the film equivalent of taking LSD, it’s simply a dream. The …
review by . September 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'Drive' 'Two Jews On Film' Think This Over The Top Thriller Stalls (Video)
      Ryan Gosling is 'Driver'.  He fast...If you're a burglar, he's your go-to guy.  Just make sure you get the job done in five minutes.  Because that's all you got...One minute late, Driver is gone.      Now, driving a get-a-way car is Driver's night job.   His day job is slightly more glamorous.  Driver is a stunt driver for movies...That is, when he's not working as a mechanic, …
review by . September 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         In Drive, Ryan Gosling plays a man who isn’t given a proper name. He’s known only as Driver. It’s a fitting description, given the way cars factor into his daily life. By day, he works for a mechanic named Shannon (Bryan Cranston) and is an occasional Hollywood stunt driver. By night, he’s a wheelman for criminals in need of a quick getaway. Although he’s not a warrior in the traditional sense, Driver is as starkly …
review by . September 15, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Ryan Gosling is capable of almost anything, and has left little doubt that he is one of the brightest stars in Hollywood. He has can play the heartthrob and romantic like in TheNotebook, he can be a heart breaker like inBlue Valentine, he can be funny and charming like in Crazy, Stupid, Love. In the last movie mentioned he stepped out of his comfort zone and tried a comedy. He is often very adventurous in his roles and always knocks then out of the park. In Drive he seems to …
review by . September 23, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   After you'll finish watching Drive you'll know you just watched something special, something rarely seen on the big screen. Drive takes all the classic elements of passionate filmmaking and revives them with a new modern look, sound and atmosphere that will keep you excited like a little kid on the edge of your seat. Audience's reaction to this is diverse. Some claim that the movie is too pretentious, some claim that the movie is silly and doesn't have enough action, …
review by . September 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Hyper Drive
DRIVE Written by Hossein Amini Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks and Albert Brooks   Irene: What do you do? Driver: I drive.   Every now and again, a movie comes along and takes you for a ride you don’t soon forget. It straps you in with its fresh cinematic voice and doesn’t let you go until it has raced through your mind, taken some crazy turns and pulled back into the garage again.  When …
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About this movie



Movies, Movie, Drama, Review, Crime Drama, Julian Left, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Ryan Gosling, Ron Perlman, Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn, Christina Hendricks


Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Release Date: September 16, 2011
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Hossein Amini
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: FilmDistrict, Odd Lot Entertainment, Seed Productions
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