Drive (2011) – directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Drive, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, tells the story of a Hollywood stunt car driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for willing crooks. After falling for his next door neighbour (Carey Mulligan), and in an act of selfless love, he attempts to help her husband out of a tight spot. As you can imagine things unravel from there.

Drive is a fine example of economy of dialogue. A film stripped down to its bare essentials, it drags you along kicking against the inexorable approach to its violent end. You know there is going to be violence … and if you don’t you’re in for an ugly surprise. I must say a few things about the violence portrayed in this film. Is it really necessary? Would I have have enjoyed it any less without it, or was its shock an essential rhythmic mechanism? For me the jury hasn’t settled. However, violence definitely changes the flavour (good or bad) of a film. The sassy style of Tarantino films spring to mind, but this is not one of those films and I can’t help but feel it was slightly misplaced here and did not further any plot lines or character development. I felt that applying the age old trick of “less is more” would’ve suited the tone of the film better letting the imagination fill in the blanks.

The cinematography, sound, and pace of Drive brings a surreal quality and Cliff Martinez’s musical score broodingly carries you along. The resulting style is similar to many films by David Lynch. It is a real pleasure to watch. Ultimately this is a film where its total direction is as much the star as its parts. A lot has been mentioned about Ryan Gosling’s Oscar nomination snub. I’m not sure “snub” is a fair term to use. His role as the Driver (you never actually get to know his name) didn’t seem too demanding. Sure, Gosling carries a heft of screen presence to the role, but this is a natural trait that you’ve either got or you haven’t. In the end it is  the film that is the star, its mesmerizing style and its magnetic narrative steal the show and if you don’t mind the violence it’s a refreshingly brilliant film in a genre littered with also-rans.

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