The first time I saw Drive, I couldn’t keep any of my thoughts together. I only knew two things going in: first that supreme badasses Bryan Cranston and Ron Perlman were co-starring, and second that Nicolas Winding Refn, director of the ill-received art piece Valhalla Rising, was at the helm. What kept Valhalla Rising from greatness was the fact that it really doesn’t function as a movie. While every shot in the film is excruciatingly beautiful and the cinematography is a wonder, all but the most patient and attentive viewers are forced to ask: “What just happened?” when the credits roll. Luckily all it took was a good producer to bind Refn’s creativity to reality for this masterpiece to come to fruition. Drive is easily the best movie of the year so far and my personal favorite film from the last 5 years.
The screenplay, based off of the novel by James Sallis and penned by Hossein Amini, tells a classic tale of love, loss, and retribution. As far as the plot goes, there really isn’t anything new here. It is the manner in which the story is told that makes this film so good. The saturated visual style and 80s soundtrack assault the viewer with vibes of pure cool. The deliberate pacing and long scenes let you soak in all the beauty of the cinematography. There isn’t as much action or violence in the film as many people were expecting but when it hits, watch out. The violence and gore is perhaps even a step above your average Tarantino flick. It is quick and it is gruesome. The punctuality of it highlights just how quickly life can be extinguished.
Drive so thoroughly blew my mind after the first viewing that I had to go see it again. I have never before paid for a full price movie twice. Like I mentioned earlier I came to see Bryan Cranston and Ron Perlman, but I stayed for Ryan Gosling. I had heard that he was a serious method actor but until now I hadn’t had the opportunity to watch him carefully. More often than not his responses are simply stares and the occasional smile. He pulls it off so well that even without dialogue we always know exactly how the Driver feels. Not only does Gosling succeed in this but his opposite Irene (Carey Mulligan) does as well. They have an on-screen chemistry unlike anything I have ever seen.
Drive shows us what the perfect art-house action movie should be. Excellent acting, striking cinematography, and clever symbolism astonish in this noir-ish thriller. The way all of these things were combined was the perfect storm to have me scooping my jaw up off of the floor. Don’t miss this movie.
The Good: Everything.
The Bad: Nothing.
The Ugly: Ha.
Score: 10 out of 10