“Drive” – Actions speak louder than words

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Occasionally, you might watch a movie that doesn’t really thrill you, and you wonder why it earned so much chatter.  Then, hours or the next day later, you’re still thinking about it until finally a piece fits, then another, and then another.  Then you start to understand.  That’s what happened with Drive, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, starring Ryan Gosling, and nominated for pretty much everything from 2011 except any major Academy Awards, but it did gain best director at Cannes.

Bryan-Cranston-Drive-movie-image“Kid” aka “Driver” (Gosling) rarely speaks nor smiles.  He does three things as best he can:  drive, fix cars, and go unnoticed.  They are in that order because Kid is very successful at driving and fixing cars, but things go wrong when he forgets to remain unnoticed.  With the help of former stuntman Shannon (Bryan Cranston), he lands paying gigs driving stunt cars for film producers during the day and getaway cars for criminals at night.  Everything he does is clear and concise.  He leaves no prints and no evidence.  He throws away cell phones after a job and steals the getaway car before it.  If anyone is off the grid, it’s Kid.  And it’s part of his plan.

Drive opens with a car chase in which all wheels stay on the road, no sidewalks are involved, and no fruit carts get smashed.  Kid barely says ten words and almost leaves one of the perpetrators at the scene because his hard and fast rule is “five minutes.  During that five minutes, I’m yours.  One minute before or after, you’re on your own.”  The key here is “on your own,” which is what Kid tries to be as long as possible.  When he lets his guard down and abandons the “on your own,” that’s when things go wrong.

Down the hall from his apartment are Irene (Carey Mulligan) and Benicio (Kaden Leos), the wife and son of Standard (Oscar Issac), in jail for crimes not explained but likely robbery.  When Irene has car trouble in a convenience store parking lot, Kid drives her and Benicio home, and this is where Kid is not “on your own.”  A ride home leads to talking.  Talking leads to dinner.  Dinner leads to dates.  Dates lead to holding hands.  Kid actually smiles but still barely talks – until Irene gets a phone call.  Standard found a Get Out of Jail Free card.

Albert-Brooks-in-Drive-535x804On the professional side, Shannon takes care of Kid, pays him to fix cars at the garage while putting together a partnership for a race team.  This is where the surprise of the film arrives in the form of Albert Brooks as Bernie, the former film producer turned wanna-be mob boss trying to hustle a buck.  Bernie agrees to front Shannon $300,000 to start the race team and hire Kid to drive, and it all seems promising until – again – Kid forgets about “on your own.”  There are deals, double crosses, daggers, and I can’t think of something having to do with guns that starts with a D.  Dammit.  Hey, there’s one.  Brooks, who completely reinvents himself, gained dozens of nominations and wins for best supporting actor from a long list of film associations across the country, including Austin, Boston, Chicago, BAFTA, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Golden Globes, and more.

Drive is all about the food chain.  Who is bigger than who?  Who can kill who?  Who can help who?  Who can buy who?  And who isn’t looking when who wants to either plant him with a bullet or a blade?  There are crosses and double crosses, sometimes getting too complicated for the good of the film but not for the good of the action.  Carey Mulligan (Public Enemy, The Great Gatsby) does an excellent job of looking cute and innocent while staying out of the way and letting all the wrong happen around her.  She knows that her husband, now out of jail, is not yet done with his life of crime.  Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Argo) is likeable yet weasely enough to be a middle man flunky, above Kid but below Bernie.  There’s violence, and some of it downright disgusting, especially someone skull crunching that sound like biting into an apple.

Carey-Mulligan

But back to the puzzle piece that saved me from disliking Drive.  Listen carefully when Shannon is explaining to Irene how he met Kid and how and why he gave him a job.  It wasn’t until a day after seeing the film that I remembered the dialogue.  This short speech, combined with a few moments in which Kid played nicely with Irene’s son Benicio, further combined with the final shot of the film, allowed me to better understand what Kid was all about.

Of all the good things in drive, something really annoyed me, and I assume I should blame it on Refn, the director.  There’s an 80’s attachment here.  The music is 80’s, Kid’s jacket is 80’s, and even the stupid font of the opening credits is reminiscent of many bad 80’s movies.  Why?  I hated the 80’s, but I did not hate Drive.

Teacher gives it a B+.

20 thoughts on ““Drive” – Actions speak louder than words

  1. The best part of the film is it’s connection to the 80’s. It’s a film that doesn’t need over analysis, its simplicity is its message. It’s classic hypnotic pacing and slim dialogue plays well against its violent scenes. I hope in 20 years people will look back and realize that this is one of the best films of our generation. It’s that good. 😉

    • i didn’t like the 80’s connection, but i didn’t like the 80’s styles, music, neon colors, techno pop, hair styles, nothing. that’s just generational i guess.

  2. Good review, though I didn’t like the movie. I felt the speed at which the relationship progressed between Kid and his “girlfriend’s” son was not believable and out of character. As sick as this sounds, my favourite part was the elevator scene where he went crazy on the dude that was sent to hurt him. That defined the character for me and supported his antisocial personality. Packed a punch, but still didn’t save the movie for me.

    • as for the son, i was not sure either way. it seemed like the father getting out of jail was a surprise, and we don’t know how long he was in exactly, so we can’t totally determine the relationship there. the more distant the father and the kid, the more easily the kid will attach to the other “Kid.”

  3. That very description of the kid is what disturbed me the most – theat garge owner took complete advantage of the kid and outright states that he pays him less than he’s worth…and the guy didn’t complain. I thought that the kid must have this life of his down as a patern – why else would he accept low pay if not to stay below the radar of past problems. I liked this violent movie but I don’t ned o see it a second time.

  4. It’s A+ for me and I absolutely loved the 80s reference. Youtube the hour long Cannes conference with the crew if you want, Nicholas explains why the 80s (but simply: he loves them). I think that approach gave the movie a really unique touch, a bit detached from current reality, a bit timeless too.

    Drive is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long while; as with you, I’ve been thinking about it and discussing it for many days after seeing it, including just last week. I seriously cannot chose a single thing I liked the most, so will just say: if anyone has not seen it, DO IT.

    • can’t argue about the robbery and mega-violence. the hetero-infidelity, not sure that actually happened, but it was very close. it seemed a surprise that the husband got out of jail, but that’s not an excuse.

  5. I simply could not love this film. It was quiet in spots for far too long. Albert Brooks as a villain was weak. I kept hearing Nemo’s dad Marlin cussing and it just didn’t fit. I’m also not a fan of Carey Mulligan. Nothing she has done so far intrigues me.

    The only things I can say positively about this film were the soundtrack and the cinematography. It was shot beautifully and the music transports me to the 80s.

    I thought this movie was going to go somewhere, but it only drove me insane.

    TL;DR Boring, uneventful, poorly cast. Grade: F.

    • mulligan, for me, did a good job staying out of the way. she really had no purpose to do anything else, and that falls on the script. she was a timid woman with a criminal husband.

      as for the music/80’s thing – i don’t get it. i don’t see a connection with the film and the 80’s. it’s a nice thing for those who grew up in the 80’s, but i didn’t see how it made a difference. what if it were 90’s music? would it have mattered? i don’t think so. but thanks for reading. it didn’t thrill me, but it was worth watching.

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