drive | movie review

Posted on December 20, 2011


I’m in a bit of a pickle.
There have been many many great movies this year, and I’m glad to have had the time to watch most of them. Unfortunately I’ve also sat through some stinkers! Mr Popper I’m looking at you.
Recently I watched what I can only describe as possibly the best movie I’ve seen all year.
My pickle is that I would feel far more comfortable hanging this title on it if it wasn’t for the moments of quite shocking violence.
I think the title of ‘Best Adult Movie’ sits better than best movie overall.‘Drive’ had me won over within the first 10 minutes. I knew I was going to experience something special. For those who haven’t seen this movie let me stress that this car chase movie does not hail from the realm of movies such as Fast and the Furious. Drive is an art film through and through, from its cinematic styling right through to its incredible retro synthesized soundtrack. For me it’s as close to a Tarantino movie as you’ll get without it actually *being* a Tarantino movie!
Ryan Gosling is Driver. No name… just Driver. He has a day job as a stunt car driver for the movies, but under cover of darkness he’s a getaway driver. The best there is. He’s a somewhat shy and complex human being who says very little. He falls in love with his neighbour Irene [Carey Mulligan – Sally Sparrow from Dr Who] and becomes a father figure to her little boy Benicio, while husband [Oscar Isaac – Prince John in last year’s Robin Hood] is in prison. Obviously with a movie called Drive and the main protagonist being called Driver – you’d expect a few car chases, and there are, and they are rather good, but this is mainly about Driver.

The movie more than earns its 18 certificate. For the most part the movie is moody, atmospheric, brooding and calm – but calm like you’re watching someone blow up a balloon with no sign of stopping – you know it’s gonna blow any second! Personally I felt the violence was over the top for what was needed here. It would have been better served off-screen to suit the mood better. I understand it’s about gangsters and criminals, but I know enough about these type of characters in movies to understand that they can turn violent in the blink of an eye. So why spoil what could have been a classic piece of noir cinema with bouts of ott bloodletting! There’s no statement to make anymore about the glorification of gore in cinema, it’s been made enough times already. I still fail to see how directors feel that you make a statement about something by giving it to people in excess! For me, a more subtle handling of the violence would have made a braver bolder statement about it’s unnecessary place in modern cinema.
So, if we put aside Driver’s outbursts of physical violence, it’s his willingness to sacrifice himself to protect the woman and child he admires so much that is the message of this film. Despite certain characters histories being revealed throughout the story, we never actually discover anything about Driver’s past. Is he trying to escape his life of crime and make a new start, who knows?

A lot of people won’t like this movie, and they have a right to obviously. And while Drive isn’t a perfect film, it’s certainly an impressively one. If you like car chases, nameless brooding anti-heros,  70s cop movies or just indie synthpop… this is a real treat.

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