That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)


Saturday, September 17th, 2011 8:39 pm—Film

Drive (USA 2011, Action/Crime/Drama/Thriller), Writer: Hossein Amini; Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

I’m in the midst of a few things tonight, but wanted to stop and write a bit about Drive, because it’s so exceptional that I can’t not throw down a few words. So, I’m aiming for something of a drive-by blog post here, but I’m finding it hard to write only a brief synopsis of why Drive is so amazing; there’s a lot to say and appreciate about the movie. Film students, take note!

The direction is phenomenal. Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn is the man to blame for that, and he just picked up the Best Director award at the Cannes International Film Festival for his efforts. Refn is known for a slew of films I haven’t seen, but all of which seem, upon quick review, to involve at least their fair share of violence and murder. Examples include the Pusher trilogy, Bleeder and Fear X. Drive is no exception. Based on the novella of the same name by James Sallis, Refn’s latest flick is about an unnamed Driver (Ryan Gosling) who spends his days as a mechanic and stunt-car driver, his nights as a get-away driver for crooks in the Los Angeles area.

Here’s where it starts getting hard to merely summarize the fabulous aspects of Drive. But I’m trying… Refn frames his scenes and characters exquisitely; he knows exactly how to create and hold tension with the composition and length of the shot, as well as in the arrangement of characters and props (mise-en-scène). He draws brilliant performances from his actors, including Bryan Cranston as Driver’s questionable boss, playing very much, and very well, against type. All of this—the amazing acting, editing, cinematography, storytelling, mood-setting—is illustrated in the opening get-away sequence, which offers enough fodder for an entire essay of its own.

Sound! The sound is extraordinary in Drive: the recordists and editors did a great job with the ambient sound; the pulsing electronic score hovers in the background like a nagging thought tugging at your memory (but in a good way); and the soundtrack is totally awesome. The disco/techno beats blast out in contrast to the dark, nuanced tone of the story and its characters. As subtle as the script is about character development and backstory, a tune like College’s A Real Hero will chime in to tell us straight up that Driver is “a real hero and a real human being.”

Refn seems to have fun playing with contrast and defying expectation. Even the opening credits font clashes with the somber opening scenes: retro pink neon letters are unabashedly slapped over broody, moody shadows.

So much to say… Cutting ahead to the pièce de résistance. The cast is solid all around. I mentioned Cranston, who is joined by a wonderful group of actors, including Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman and the deeply talented Carey Mulligan as Driver’s love interest (though I’d like to see her branch off from the whole “sweet, ethereal, innocent” bit sometime soon). But the standout performance comes from the fantastically gifted Gosling. (I would love to feature him on Kickass Canadians.) I’ve written about him a few times on this site: Lars and the Real Girl, The Believer, Blue Valentine. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Gosling is among the greatest actors of all time, and on top of that he seems to be a profoundly interesting, unique person. His choice of films alone speaks volumes about his character.

In Drive, Gosling doesn’t talk much; barely at all, in fact. But he communicates plenty with his eyes and body. Refn’s film demands a very technically precise performance from Gosling, and he pulls it off brilliantly. More than that, the actor is able to embody a fully realized person in spite of the fact that the script gives us very little to go on by way of who Driver is. We’re told almost nothing about the character’s past. It’s clear from his actions, and the scrap word tossed out here and there, that he’s very experienced at what he does. But it isn’t until he’s called upon to respond with violence that we know just what he’s capable of. When he strikes, it’s with chilling ease, skill and speed (so that’s why there’s a scorpion emblem on his jacket). It leaves you wondering: “Where did he learn to kill like that?”

Whatever his background, it also taught him not to fear love and to follow a code of honour that includes loyalty and integrity. He has a deep well of violence churning within him, and you see him struggle at times with whether to draw from it or leave it be. But on the whole, he seems to have a pretty solid sense of right and wrong. Driver, Irene (Mulligan) and her young son are among the few “good” people in Drive, and their scenes together seem to exist on another plane: magical wisps that somehow floated into the rest of Drive and took root. I don’t mean to suggest this as a flaw; their scenes come across as stolen moments in time, and again hark back to Refn’s apparent fondness for toying with contrast, and preconceptions about genre.

Honestly, Gosling’s performance, the use of sound, mise-en-scène, direction, genre convention… So many aspects of this film could be broken down and analyzed at length. I’ll stop here, but suffice it to say that I highly recommend Drive. It’s an artful, intelligent, unique, entertaining, gripping movie that deserves the recognition it’s getting. One of the best I’ve seen. Outstanding.

*            *            *

Happy Birthday, BD! You’re the reason I started this blog, four-and-a-half years ago…

2 Responses

  1. Caitlin

    This looks awesome~ great review! We will probably see it soon.

  2. amanda

    Thanks Cait. 🙂 I LOVE this film. I want to see it again. Looking forward to your thoughts once you’ve seen it. Thanks for posting, my good buddy… talk soon!

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