"... I don't sit in while you're running it down. I don't carry a gun. I drive"A
This was easily one of the top 10 best films of 2011 and possibly inside my top ten of the last several years. The film and its central character are effortlessly cool and both have become both instant classics and cult favourites. Although the film’s time period is never specified it seems to have a foot both in the present and in the 1980s. The style, design and music reminded me of the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City as it has that kind of 80s Miami almost art deco style-stucco style. The colour palette is beautiful and dominated by the colour gold, perhaps in a nod to its L.A setting and also the Driver’s nostalgic view of L.A with its strong silent movie stars and dames in need of rescue. The whole film has a very Noir feel to it. The gold is most noticeable in Gosling’s wardrobe as he sports golden shoes and a fantastic gold scorpion jacket. More subtlety though the sun kissed L.A streets also glisten gold.
Gosling’s character known only as ‘The Driver’ or ‘The Kid’ was reminiscent of a character from an old Western. He is intense and barely speaks but when he does it’s because he has something important to say. He can also be incredibly violent, shocking both the audience and other characters. The fact that the violence is scattered sparsely makes its impact even greater and on both occasions I’ve watched it, it has caused people I’ve seen it with to recoil. There is another side to The Driver though and he can be very caring. The whole reason for getting into the trouble around which the plot centres is because he is looking out for his neighbour Irene (Carrey Mulligan). While at first he can seem cold and distant he definitely has a softer side to him but rarely lets his guard down. I thought that although Carey Mulligan was very good, she was miscast. She just feels too glamorous to be a waitress with a husband in jail. Unlike her character in 2011’s other majorly overlooked film Shame who was both troubled but also glamorous, there was none of the glamour here and she just felt wrong for the part. Other actors excel, including Albert Brooks who is deeply menacing as Mobster Bernie. His partner Nino (Ron Perlman) is also excellent but Brooks’ performance is much more subtle and nuanced. Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks makes a brief appearance and is also good but it did feel odd to see her in jeans instead of a tight green dress with pen around her neck, pointing to her chest.
The action scenes are wonderfully choreographed and thankfully stay away from the Bourne style shaky cam which seems to have become industry standard. The car chases are often viewed from a slight distance, occasionally stepping inside the car for close ups and this gives them a timeless quality. Gosling is superb in these scenes. Quite often there is no score over the chase scenes, the film instead relying on the noise of the engines, much like in the film Bullit. Also, like that film you always get the sense that it is Gosling driving, even though some stunt drivers were used.
One of the best parts of the entire film is the score which features heavily synthesised 80s style music and was composed by former Red Hot Chilli Peppers drummer Cliff Martinez. I loved it on first viewing but having seen it a second time, my girlfriend bought the OST and neither of us can get Nightcall by Kavinsky out of our heads. A Real Hero must go down as one of the all time great movie songs and is peppered throughout.
There is one scene which stands out for me of the many fantastic scenes. The Driver and Irene are in a lift in their building having just had fight, or at least as close to a fight as these two undemonstrative characters can have. In the lift is an assassin who has been sent to take The Driver out. What happens next is violent, sickening but also beautiful and for me sums up the whole film. Drive is a wonderful film which deserves its status as one of 2011’s best and will be watched for years to come by young people discovering the best of cinema in a similar way to the likes of Scarface and Raging Bull are today.