Drive – A review

Finally after a summer of big budget action comes my kind of movie.  Noir plus car chases.

Drive isn’t perfect.  I don’t understand either the musical score choices or the decision to use a pink cursive script for the titles.  I also think the violence was too graphic.  Once during a surprising and shocking scene the row behind me burst into laughter.  inappropriate laughter.  I think they were so shaken by the violence they didn’t know how to react.

In general, I think the audience didn’t know how to deal with the movie.  I think they were expecting the dreamy Ryan Gosling in a “Fast and the Furious” type pic.  That was not this movie.

Much has been said about Gosling’s decision to act the main character mostly silently.  His emotions were shown in the narrowing or his eyes, the grip of his hand on the wheel and often a slow smile.  The smile worked – it was spontaneous whenever he spent time with the child Benicio.  In fact, the relationship between the Driver and the child seemed to be the core of the movie – even more so than the romantic one between the Driver and the child’s mother, Irene, played by Carey Mulligan.  Little is spoken of Mulligan’s performance.  Like Gosling’s it existed mostly in silence as well.  I thought she was quite effective – and to my mind way dreamier than Gosling.

The plot, like most noir, is simply a structure in which the characters hang.  Driver drives.  He drives the getaway car.  He drives the stunt car in the movies.  He drives to relax and think.  When he isn’t driving, he works in a garage.  When he isn’t doing that he isn’t involved.  His apartment is barren.  He doesn’t help plan any heists or stunts.  Outside the car he barely exists – a ghost on the edges.

He makes a decision to befriend Irene and Benicio.  Because of the people that surround them a plot develops.  His boss at the garage is a penny ante con man with a history and dependency on two gangsters.   Bryan Cranston is effective as the garage owner – pitiful and cheap and desperate.  Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman play the gangsters.  Perlman is loud and large and grows more pathetic as the movie progresses.  Brooks is the opposite, but as he talks and acts, he grows more chilling in every scene.

Behind the wheel, the Driver is in control, but outside he struggles.  He struggles with a core of violence that can burst forth.   He wears the same jacket throughout.  It starts off bright and shiny and silver.  As the movie progresses it dulls and dirties and is splattered with blood.

The final catalyst is Irene’s husband, Standard.  A recently paroled thief.  A truly tragic character.  He wants nothing more than to love his wife and care for his son.  But the Driver is in their lives now.  And his criminal past just won’t leave.  Had he befriended someone else when things start to go wrong, he might go to the police.  Instead he turns to the Driver – the man who may have made him a cuckold.

Just in case it isn’t clear, this is a not a movie that will end well.

The character acting is all excellent.  The driving and chases is awesome.  The tension as things start to go wrong and you see the blackness at the core of the Driver is incredible.

I recommend this movie.  Go noir!

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