Drive (2011)

After a few days of basking in the glory of the immensness that was Drive, I have found a few words to describe what is by far the best film I’ve seen this year (yeah yeah, so far).

If you’ve been reading Split Reel for a while, it comes as no surprise to you that I adore Ryan Gosling (read Split Reel’s close-up on the guy here). Adore him, to the extent that I am hair away from officially announcing him as my favourite actor at the moment. So when I heard he might retire (Read the HuffPost f.e.) I was shattered (wow am I exaggurating or what!). After seeing Drive that feeling became even stronger. I mean this is a guy who singlehandedly (well, with the impeccable help Nicolas Winding Refn and Hossein Amini and Ron Perlman and and…) raised the level of film for 2011.

Drive, tells the story of a stuntdriver by day, get-away car by night, Unnamed, who falls in love with his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan). Irene’s thug husband is released from jail, but as he owns money for protection, the Driver offers to help him rob a pawnshop. Of course, things go wrong an Irene’s husband is killed in the process, a crime that turns out to be of a much grander scale than any of them supposed.

With the story being the straightforward one last heist – heist goes wrong – revenge ensues (of course mixed with strippers and romance) Drive wouldn’t work as well without the great writing; it’s witty, gritty and unusual, as Driver is not the most talkative character in the books. The usual faux-funny puns are missing, as Drive shows how action can be built up to a level that is both visually masterful and appealing to intellectual audiences, of both genders.

(A friend of a friend just told me that I didn’t get Transformers because I’m a girl, but I firmly believe in the appeal of genre action, when it’s done smart. Action is underappreciated, mainly because of the rotten apples like Michael Bay, and for me it has cross-gender appeal as well.)

Cinematography-wise Drive rivals this year’s frontrunner, Tree of Life, by mixing elements of noir, arthouse, Hitchcock and modern action. As every frame lingers for just the right amount of time, the lights, the atmosphere becomes tangible and elevates the storytelling.

Ron Perlman delivers one of the best gangster villains of recent years as Nino (BTW if you’re not watching Sons of Anarchy already, you should, it’s immense), and Bryan Cranston proves yet again his range as he plays Shannon, Drives comrade and partner in deceit.

For me this is the final proof of Refn’s magnificience (is it just me or are Nordic directors really shining through this year?); after Bronson and the Pusher trilogy there is no question that .. I’d like to say we have a new QT in our hands but I wish to be fair to Refn, and let him have his niche, because, what a niche that is. Refn capability of bringing in a potentially brilliant actor (Mikkelsen, Hardy and now Gosling) and moulding them, shaping them into a very distinct, independent character, inseperable from the actor is unbelievable. He seems to give time for actors to do what they do in subtle ways, and that is to act. It’s rare that action gives space for emotion, especially when it’s illusive, indistinct and inferred.

Refn seems to have slowed down: Drive is unravelled and uncomplicated, and in its straightforwardness, no bullshit approach it brings what it’s supposed to and more. An instant classic that rivals Scarface.

10 / 10

You Will Like Drive If…

– arthouse action feels like an intriguing concept.
– you’re sick of mindless action.
– you don’t mind brain explosions.


38 responses to “Drive (2011)

  1. I loved the atmosphere + soundtrack, reminded me of Tarantino. Can’t get that song A Real Hero out of my head!

    I agree, definitely says with you

    Didn’t like the excessive violence, though. Perhaps the Carey Mulligan character was not developed enough, she was just a pretty face I think.

  2. I loved the music in this film! And Gosling…(I think I’m in love, in an embarrased schoolgirl-way ).
    This is the best film I’ve seen this year too (so far as you said). For me it got a little bit boring in the end and all the violence just a little bit too much. But as another blogger put it well in his comment on my review of the film = the point is that the violence is pointless in the end ;)
    Carey Mulligan’s character was also kinda blah and not deep enough but it didn’t really matter because Gosling was just amazing.

    • Yes yes and yes.
      I don’t mind the violence when it’s done nicely and relevantly as in Drive. I didn’t see it as pointless.

      I mean, if Mulligan would’ve hit it out of the park I think the film would’ve been too much to handle.

  3. Love reviews where the author’s enthusiasm shines through, so needless to say I greatly enjoyed this one.

    Also, I’m a guy and I don’t ‘get’ Transformers either (and don’t want to). I agree that action is an underappreciated genre because of rotten apples like Bay. May he go away!

  4. Of course action films have cross-gender appeal. What is to ‘get’ about Transformers anyway? If anything, what is actually happening on the screen in Bay’s films is confusing – certainly not the story. Anyway, I’m glad you loved Drive – it is a film I am dying to see again. I had a few problems with it – namely the casting of Carey Mulligan and a few odd blunders (the strippers just sitting around). But I loved Refn’s work. The man sure knows how to frame a scene. The cinematography, editing, sound mixing and performances (esp. Gosling, Cranston and Brooks) are all stellar. Still shocked by the super-violence in the second half, too. Above all, it is just cool! Nice review!

    • I thought the bit with strippers just sitting around texting was hilarious ! >) And yes, Mulligan has been getting very meh remarks. But to be fair, maybe it’s a comparison thing. I also thought it was great that the must-have love interest wasn’t at the centre and didn’t have a happy ending.

  5. Overall, the story is quite generic but at the hands of Nicholas Winding Refn, this is truly an exceptional film. I absolutely loved the mood and atmosphere in this film. Great to see it didn’t disappoint you Anna :D

  6. I am so glad you enjoyed this as much as I Anna. I too gave it top marks and was left completely affected by it for days. I went straight out and bought the soundtrack. I almost got my haircut and bought some toothpicks and gloves ffs!! LOL

    A masterpiece of stylish and well thought out film making.


  7. Completely agree, Drive is a great film.

    A few things I wanted to add though….

    I read over a brief interview given recently by Ryan Gosling about the film. He explained that Refn had him in mind from the get-go even though director and actor seem to have had a rough first encounter. The original idea for the film was to be very different to what was actually made. It turns out that Refn worked closely with Gosling in shaping the script and figuring out the style of film they wanted to create. With Gosling always a sure-bet in the cast, and a director intent in shaping a film around his lead, Drive had a winning formula before the first shot was ever taken.

    Also, I do give a high five to Ron Perlman for his performance but, I think a higher merit must be given to Albert Brooks’ “Bernie” who was a little more complex and multi-layered character than Perlman’s “Nino”. Sure, the latter embodies the effortlessly cool charisma of a modern gangster, but Bernie is also surprisingly thrilling by his unpredictability and lack of emotion.

    Please read over my brief overview of Drive and other recent films I have seen. My blog needs some life :P

    • That’s really interesting to know! Gosling’s done a few films, his best I believe, where he;s very much involved with the story, how the character is displayed.

      Everyone’s loving Albert Brooks but for me he stayed in the backdrop.. tbf I’ve been watching so much Sons of Anarchy that I’m in a Perlman haze. Will probably see Brooks’ performance better the second go.

  8. Great review and I completely agree with your assesment that this is the best film of the year. That elevator scene alone is going to be broken down in film studies classes for generations.

  9. I didn’t look over this review too much, but I can see you love it just about as much as I did. It seems all the bloggers in the universe saw this one and I don’t blame them. It had some truly well done elements that just don’t get seen everyday. Hope you get internet back soon!

  10. What can I say: I fully agree with you, Anna, one of the best films this year, a record-breaking wonderment for Refn & Gosling for they are both in superb shape!

    I don’t want to go all biblical but it feels like every tiny bit on Refn’s uneven career has been leading towards this… and the crazy story behind it, with Gosling in the lead.. Wow.
    Did you enjoy the 80’s soundtrack? Wasn’t it amazing to put masculine Gosling & cars together with them and the wonderful visuals?

    Amini and Refn managed to take the best shit from the average and the best car & crime films of the 1970s and 80s and squeeze out a diamond.
    I’m going to see this for the 3rd time next week.

  11. i didn’t love it. i feel alone. but i didn’t. it was a very good film but all i could think about was all the movies that i’d loved that had influenced it rather than enjoying it on its own merits.

    i’m now reading everyone’s reviews and feeling like i should see it again.

  12. This is #1 for me, too, but you know that already.

    It’s just magnificent. It’s a towering accomplishment, high praise for what could be considered nothing more than an ode to 80s action movies, thrillers, and 70s car chase films. But it’s much more than the sum of its parts, being a great character study of both Gosling’s Driver and Brooks’ gangster, and an excellent argument for how style and heavy stylization can uphold substance rather than replace it.

    • A towering accomplishment indeed. The best film of it’s genre (?) for many years. Honestly, I have to go back to films like Taxi Driver/The Deerhunter to leave a cinema so gobsmackingly dumbstruck by what I had just seen.
      Gosling, who I thought was just a ‘run-of-the-mill’ rom-com leading man (and very good at it, might I add), is just a revelation! James Dean/Montgomery Clift/Marlon Brando eat your collective hearts out. The role of a lifetime and he nailed it completely.
      Mr. Refn………congratulations on a film that will rarely be equalled!
      A violent dream!

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