Why did I watch it? I have to start this post by stating that I am a fan of Nicholas Winding Refn. Nicholas Winding Refn is the master of the cinematic mind-fuck; I watch a film of his, it gets into my head, and becomes a permanent squatter, refusing to leave. Yes, he makes some pretentious comments in interviews, but I shouldn’t read around his films, because, from the moment I watch them, I understand them. After seeing one of his works, then watching his Q&As, and reading the materials he releases I find I’ve understood exactly what he was trying to convey. Nicholas Winding Refn’s films are self-explanatory – at least for me. So, I’m left rather confused when others don’t “get it”. Why was Drive overlooked, and slated by so many? Why was Drive snubbed by the likes of the BAFTAs, and the Oscars?
Synopsis: Ryan Gosling stars at the simply named Driver, a man whose past is never revealed, working as a part-time stunt driver, and night-time getaway man. A quiet man who appears to keep himself to himself, as though he could walk away from his current life at any time, if needed. After assisting his neighbour, Irene (played by Carey Mulligan), and her young son, Benicio, when their car overheats, the Driver finds himself drawn into their lives, and falling for her charms. When Irene’s husband is released from gaol, the Driver finds himself agreeing to a heist in order to help the husband clear his debts, but, as is usual in stories, things don’t go to plan.
The lengths people will go in order to protect the innocent.
What did I like? The cinematography courtesy of Newton Thomas Sigel, the casting, the lack of verbage which forces actual acting – there is more show than tell in Drive – and the soundtrack which was seamlessly melded to the visuals. Okay, so there was very little indeed I didn’t like. The colours in the film feel sunbaked, even at night, but the lighting of the film means you catch all the detail. I’ve not seen Ryan Gosling or Carey Mulligan before, but I enjoyed their performances in Drive. The surprise came when I realised Blanche was being played by Christina Hendricks from Mad Men; I honestly didn’t recognise her.
The storyline may seem simple, and the “hero without a past” bit is also passé, but the way Nicholas Winding Refn works this film makes it something different; something exciting and, yes, something thoughtful. If you want high adrenaline car chases, a mindless action film than Drive is not for you. Yes, there is violence: it arrives rather abruptly; doesn’t last long; and is entirely warranted. The actual driving sequences are short, too; sharp and to the point adding to the story, not detracting from it.
Some say this film is style over substance. I say they either watched the film with their eyes closed; their minds closed; or they just can’t tell the good from the bad. Then again, perhaps I get Nicholas Winding Refn where others do not, will not or cannot. I’ve heard comparisons with Quentin Tarantino, and while I found his work exciting at first, I didn’t always understand it, but I do understand Nicholas Winding Refn and I hope, I truly hope he continues to make films.
What didn’t I like? There was an item of costume which really made me gag. If you’ve seen some of the posters you may have already seen that awful, white, satin jacket with the gold scorpion on it. Terrible. Hiddeous. Blah. It loses 0.1 of a star just for that.
If only I could convince Mr Refn to offer more extras on his DVD/Blu-Ray releases. One Q&A session with an audience of the film is pretty scarce fare. Please don’t fill the extras out with gallery stills though; they annoy me more than anything.
Would I recommend it? Of course! The Blu-Ray is on my wishlist, the soundtrack, too, and I imagine I will view it repeatedly over the coming years. I’ve also put the book, Drive by James Sallis, on which the film is based on my wishlist.