drive

Review: Drive

by Nick Martin – Staff Writer

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Best Bad Quote:

“This is one pimp-ass mother-fucking pussy wagon!”

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Before going in to ‘Drive’, I had heard a lot of good things. However, if past experiences have taught me anything, it’s to not get your hopes up too high. We build things up in our mind, letting every word of praise and tit-bit of information create a towering behemoth of expectation that (unfortunately), most releases cannot live up to (my fear of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ falling victim to this has me waking up in cold sweats most nights). Thus, going in to ‘Drive’, I allowed a healthy dose of scepticism to darken my rose-tinted glasses. However, the kid in me couldn’t help but hold out a little bit of hope that this would be, as I heard, the film of the year.

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He was not disappointed.

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‘Drive’ is a revelation for the action-thriller genre, proving that artistry and action are not mutually exclusive, and that when placed in the right pair of hands, can compliment each other perfectly. The film follows the unnamed driver (Ryan Gosling), an underappreciated Hollywood stuntman by day, and a ruthlessly efficient getaway driver by night. His isolated existence becomes inextricably entangled with that of his next door neighbour (Carey Mulligan), her son, and the ex-con husband who ultimately draws Driver into a volatile rampage of disgruntled gangsters, fumbled heists and gruesome murders.

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‘Drive’ hangs almost entirely off of the performance of lead Ryan Gosling (you might recognise him, he’s in practically every film released in the next six months). Occupying the screen for roughly 80% of the running time, the film would sink or swim based on Gosling’s ability to portray the restrained, introverted Driver. Luckily for us, he excels in the role. Portraying more emotion with the twitch of an eyebrow than many actors can with their entire body, Gosling here gives us the textbook definition of a subtle, nuanced performance. He manages to portray both fractured melancholy and explosive anger with such calm and restraint that he makes Robert Patrick’s turn as the T1000 look like Chris Tucker in Rush Hour.

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Similarly impressive too is the rest of the cast. Carey Mulligan imbues her character with a natural warmth and wide-eyed vulnerability, and her chemistry with Gosling provides the film with a solid emotional foundation that resonates profoundly throughout every scene, made even more impressive by the couple’s favouring of lingering glances over deep verbal exchanges. Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman also serve up respectable performances as the local gangsters blighting poor Drivers days, Brooks’ slithering menace playing off nicely against Perlmans more extroverted hoodlum (delivering the single laugh-out-loud line of the whole movie, rightly crowned as the films Bad Movie Quote).

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However, it is not just the cast who provide outstanding performances. Director Nicolas Winding Refn approaches the screen as a canvas, crafting beautiful wide-angled shots, and dividing the screen starkly between hazy neon lighting and broad swathes of thick shadow. It’s no wonder Driver never has to talk; the cinematography alone conveys the bleak monotony of his solitude. All this plays out to a soundtrack of 80’s-themed electronica that perfectly compliments the films many tender moments and establishing shots, and thankfully silences itself when harsh reality comes crashing through in the form of tyre squeals, shotgun blasts and bloody boot prints.

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The action scenes themselves are a breath of fresh air in the modern era of turbo-charged Michael Bay-hem and effects-laden milisecond shots. Rather than pile chase scenes with thick layers of obnoxious rap-rock, Refn strips them back to the meat and potatoes of the scene, leaving the engine roaring in our ears as the only accompaniment to sequences that build the tension up to true edge-of-your-seat levels. The same can be said of the fight sequences, stripped down and used sparingly, they provide a startling contrast to the emotional poignancy exhibited throughout the rest of the movie that makes them all the more shocking when they explode from the screen (the elevator scene is a perfect example of this). This stark juxtaposition in tone, between euphoric intimacy and scwarzenegger-esque hyper-violence, brilliantly heightens the effect of both, and fulfills the near impossible task of making the audience feeling both emotionally invested and ruthlessly blood thirsty (a feat perhaps not truly accomplished since Jenny was first kidnapped at the beginning of ‘Commando’).

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‘Drive’ is as close to a perfect action film as you are ever likely to find. For once, I was able to watch as all the hopes and expectations I had for a film blossomed on the screen in front of me, and was reassured that you don’t have to resort to towering robots or ethnic stereotypes to create an engrossing action film (tut tut, Bay and Ratner). Turning the genre on it’s head, ‘Drive’ has set the bar for all others to follow, and shows that an intelligent approach to film making doesn’t have to be exclusive to arthouse short films and period pieces. Hopefully, ‘Drive’ will earn its place in peoples hearts as a modern classic, as it really is about time that directors and audiences alike learned that sometimes, the foot on the pedal isn’t nearly as important as the man on the end of it.

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Rating:

5 out of 5 pairs of driving gloves

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