A stuntman, mechanic, and racecar driver is drawn into the life of his neighbor whose husband is in jail. When a job goes south for the husband, the driver is left to clean up the mess.
When I first saw “Drive,” I didn’t know what I was in for. I hadn’t yet been to film school and all I heard was that some new Ryan Gosling movie was blowing people away and I knew I had to see it.
It was a little bit slower than I expected and for a movie about a stunt-driver wheelman, it had remarkable few awesome chase scenes. Yet, it left a big impression on me. Its synth soundtrack pushed me further down the road of 80s nostalgia, and as I entered film school the next year, I was excited to hear more about the director and the craft that goes into a film such as this.
Now revisiting the film, years later, I find myself re-evaluating my original assessment of the film.
Many critics have remarked that Gosling’s performances often leave something to be desired. He tends to act very sparingly and not emote to the last row fo the theater.
This is precisely why I, and certain other film makers, like Ryan Gosling. He’s reserved and forces the viewer to read every micro expression to figure out what he is thinking. He relies on that 90% of what we all know gets communicated when we speak, the non-verbal.
His emotions teem under the surface ready to break free in a frenzy, which is the end of this film. The still waters everyone normally sees are erased from memory by the actions he undertakes when he is forced.
The violence was a lot more shocking than I remember as well. That isn’t necessarily to warn anyone off of viewing the film. This movie is a prime example of violence being used effectively as a story telling technique. The violence in the film is delayed, showing the lengths to which some characters are willing to go in order to avoid it and contrasted with the characters who lean on violence as their first resource.
Nicolas Winding Refn is one of my favorite directors. He doesn’t always nail it as far as communicating what he wants in the way that he wants but he always swings hard. Drive is probably his most accessible film and the one most people would know him for. It’s probably in my top ¼ of his films but I won’t say it’s my favorite. It’s a little more grounded than I like from him but for the average movie goer, I can’t say I would recommend branching out into his other work.
As a cinephile, however, I am quite thankful that my first drive with NWR led me to his other works.
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