I doubt very much I could add anything more to the wealth of critical acclaim that already exists for this movie, but its hard to overstate how stylish yet increasingly brutal Nicholas Winding Refn’s ‘Drive’ is and coming back to this movie in UHD/4K only reminds me just why every word of praise is deserved.
The plot opens as stunt car driver (Ryan Gosling) introducing his ‘rules’ to fresh clients. He will drive criminals to a heist, from a heist, using all the tricks of the trade – but all within a strict 5-minute window. Once the five minutes is up, he parks the car and bails. Unusual, but then this guy’s pegged as the best there is so apparently crooks are fine with this. As with all rules, they are meant to be broken however, and despite the driver (who incidentally is nameless – well in the credits anyhow) being disciplined to the point of obsession, there is one case which sees him go against his own mantra. A heist, taken on to protect a woman and her child, goes spectacularly wrong and the driver finds himself in an escalating battle for survival revolving around money, gangsters and a whole lot of violence.
Whilst the above wouldn’t see ‘Drive’ out of place amongst any number of crime/revenge style thrillers, hell even strong violence has become the calling card of a number of established directors. What makes ‘Drive’ unique is its merging of highly stylised neo-noir cinematography, and its focus on choke and release tension, particularly in its opening set-pieces. This sees the films initial forced restraint, coupled with some gorgeous neon cityscapes something of an intendedly stark contrast to the films loud brash and visceral second half.
The fact that its all accompanied by a soft, pulsing electro soundtrack doesn’t hurt it either.
When put all together its style and confidence make its intent to flirt with pretentious self-indulgence very clear; and it knows that you know it to!
Before we move on to the films pacier, more linear and equally more typical second half let me spend a little bit more time with the films protagonist played by the increasingly typecast Ryan Gosling.
Playing the ultra-disciplined, ultra-precise and ultimate dark horse driver character seems to have been hand crafted for Goslings emotionless, yet glacial-cool style of acting. Always chewing on a toothpick, favouring a velvet jacket emblazoned with a golden scorpion on its back, never before has anyone looked so good, looking so bad. Ignoring the fact that ‘the Driver’ essentially becomes a one-man gangster killing machine by the film’s conclusion, despite never really looking like he has a clue what’s going on, the guy is on point to deliver time and time again. Whilst the characters context is perhaps not watertight believable, there was something un-hinged about his compulsive clinical nature made evident in the films opening act that somewhat justifies that once the ‘flood-gates open, the tide is unleashed’ persona that gets unleashed in the films latter half.
Whilst I might have mixed metaphors there, Goslings a beast in this film, and his character, however unlikely at first just sits perfect in this film, conceivable or not.
I could not possibly finish my review without talking about the violence – possibly the only part of this review my website is qualified to review!
This movie is very, very violent. Initially, I didn’t see it coming, and therefore its all the more impactful when it does. Without listing all of the bloody gunplay, gore indulgent kills and explosive violence I would say that if you are a fan of similarly focussed directors – think Rodriguez and Tarantino, then you are going to absolutely love what Refn presents here. The violence is relentless once it gets going, and given the film’s attention to detail to the film’s visuals in general, rest assured there are no punches pulled here either – literally…
Overall ‘Drive’ is a film that looks back in its tone and story but seeks to cement itself as a modern classic though meticulous styling, memorable protagonist and bombardment of visceral violence. Whilst none of the set pieces are unique to this film, care and attention to detail help to craft them to suit the tones and style within these films, from the tense, point precision car chase sequences to the sloppy and contrastingly wild violence. This film is a hit, which ever way you look at it, and given the films distinct visual style its re-release in 4K is an ideal format to revisit.