Quick Review: Drive (dir. by Nicolas Winding Refn)

Here at the Shattered Lens, we’ve been eagerly awaiting Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, which has picked up some major buzz over the last few months. So note that this will not be the only review you’ll see for the film. As the other reviews come in, I’ll update this paragraph to link to them.


Leonth3duke has added his Drive Review, which examines the film from a lens closer to the director’s point of view and remains spoiler free. Definitely worth reading!

Arleigh has also added his Drive Review – which compares the film to both Michael Mann and David Cronenberg’s styles.

*  *   *   *  *

I was so excited by Drive that I treated my extended family to it (just in case the film went sour, it would be easy to apologize). This is going to be a quick review, because I’m going to ramble.

To quickly sum it up, Drive is a beautiful, artistic film that hits all the right buttons when it comes to the crimes it showcases. It occasionally explodes between quiet reflection and ultra violent action. Even the music was sweet. It’s just a shame though that all that coolness is wrapped up in dialogue and scenes where the pacing……moves……as……………slow…………..as………………this. Honestly, the book this was adapted from felt like it must have been about 50 pages, at best.

Drive is the tale of Driver (Ryan Gosling), a stuntman for the movies by day, and a Wheelman by night. His partner, Shannon (a nice performance by Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston) gets involved with a mobster (Albert Brooks) on a business venture. After getting caught up in a heist that goes awry, Driver has to try to protect himself along with the woman and child he’s recently befriended.

Drive has a fantastic sequence before we actually see the opening credits. Everything about that opening is downright sharp and creative. I haven’t seen that cool an opening to a film in quite a while. What a way to hook the audience in.

Overall, the film feels great and unique, but it suffers from one problem that I’ve only seen a few people actually mention. It feels like there’s this pause between every statement between Driver and Irene (Carey Mulligan). Imagine having one character say “Hello”, and then having someone pause the movie for a few minutes before picking it up from there. Drive ended up doing this quite a bit.  I can understand if Driver is a soft spoken, man of action,  but there were moments where I wanted to shake both Gosling and Mulligan to communicate more. I’m not saying they had to move in a particular direction, but they had a lot of patience waiting for replies from each other.  There were other scenes where I felt Refn should have considered adding just a few cuts to the film to increase the speed of the film. The slow pace keeps it from becoming The Transporter, but most of this movie felt like that 3rd act in Heat after the robbery (or the multiple endings in Return of the King) to me. The film felt more like it was in love with itself than anything.

I understand that Drive is an independent film, and with independent filmmaking, there’s a bit more freedom to do things artistically instead of having movie marketers breathe down your throat. While I may lack the film appreciation skills to effectively grasp the artistic impact of Drive on screen, I can say that as a dialog or story driven piece, the movie suffers that one hiccup. Others may see the movie differently than I did.

Pacing aside, Drive is easily worth seeing, and is in some ways similar to some of Michael Mann’s films like Thief and the aforementioned Heat. Ryan Gosling was cool, but knowing that you’re not going to get the kind of emotion from his character compared to maybe Blue Valentine helps to brace you. Working from Mann’s concept of movies, you could relate Driver to a Neil McCauley. In Heat, DeNiro’s McCauley took action when he needed to. If someone forced his hand, the response was harsh. Driver felt like he had something of the same approach, which I really did like.

Visually speaking, I loved it, but it just has areas where Refn appears to be in love with a shot so much that he lingers longer than he needs to. If you never told me who directed this, I might assume it was David Lynch.  The driving scenes themselves are done very well, and the action is also explosive, breaking the silence in the film a number of times. The silence is so strong that something as simple as a gunshot caused most of the audience to jump, which I found interesting.

The other performances in Drive are interesting, especially Albert Brooks and Oscar Issac, particularly. I didn’t even recognize him in this film, compared to his bad guy role in Sucker Punch. Christina Hendricks, though nice to see, didn’t really do too much here.

So with Drive, you can go see it. I may see it again myself. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but if you yawn somewhere down the line, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

One other thing I had to add here. The Marketing for this film a few months ago (including the original trailer) is closer to the impact of the actual film than some of the marketing that’s being done now. Most of the recent posters and tv ads push Drive as something of an action piece. I would consider it more of a Drama with action occasionally spliced in.

Song of the Day: A Real Hero (by College feat. Electric Youth)

For the latest “Song of the Day” I only had one choice in mind. No other song has wormed it’s way into my waking consciousness than the song I chose. It’s the 80’s-like synth-pop song “A Real Hero” by the band College feat. Electric Youth.

To say that Nicolas Winding Refn’s first Hollywood film (though still quite modestly budgeted) was something that stuck to me would be an understatement. One of the factors which just made the film one of the best films of 2011 has to be the 80’s retro synthpop soundtrack by Cliff Martinez and some perfectly chosen licensed songs. The one song which definitely has become a favorite and also one which has stuck itself in my mind since I saw the film is “A Real Hero” which we fully hear in the end of the film and into the end credits (the song get a brief appearance in the middle of the film).

This song perfectly encapsulates the restrained love story between the characters played by Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. It explores the dynamic between The Kid (Gosling’s role) and Irene the young mother (Mulligan’s role) as heard through the song’s sparse lyrics which intersperse itself between the electronic synth keyboard play. It’s inclusion in two spots in the film adds different meanings to the song. The first time we hear it the song adds a soft layer of old-school romanticism to Gosling and Mulligan’s characters, but when we finally hear it in full in the end that romanticism takes on an ambiguous tone with just a tinge of bittersweet to the romance.

There’s another song from the Drive soundtrack which also made quite an impact not just in the film’s overall quality but in me as a listener and an audience. That would be explored in a day or so.