What I'm Watching: Drive
Welcome to my second edition of “What I’m Watching,” a column where I just discuss what I’ve watched recently. Without any gimmicks or release dates or eras or anything of the sort. This is a very neutral column. There will be no boundaries or boarders to what I discuss in this column and I think that will make it fun.
“Drive” felt like a nuclear explosion of chemical rewiring in my brain when I saw it. It is a movie that is pretty simple when it comes to its technical terms. But director Nicolas Winding Refn used context and execution in unbelievable ways and made something that was so simple, so extraordinary. It is a movie that is packed with style; it is a movie that is bluntly cut from the same cloth from other movies. There is a particular mood and atmosphere that Refn is trying to tap into, and I don’t think he cares how shameless it comes off. In the end, you can’t argue against the film’s confidence, its ability to provoke emotions, its ability to shock or to entertain.
Ryan Gosling maybe a sexy heartthrob to most women, but when we look at his filmography, there is a lot of weird choices in it. Sure, every once in a while, he will appear in something mainstream like “The Notebook” or “Crazy, Stupid Love.” Taken as a whole, his filmography tends to dip into the unconventional and the independent. I have always appreciated Gosling’s work because he has a mainstream status but he never completely chooses that route. He has one of the most unique and colorful careers of any actor working today, and he proves each year of his impeccable range as a performer. His performance as The Driver will possibly go down as one of his finest hours. The Driver is a modern cowboy, a 21st century man with no name, a rogue Ronin drifting in the West. We never learn the character’s true name, but we identify that he already has a reputation as a driver. The Driver is a stuntman by day and heist driver by night, he has a very particular set of rules he uses as a heist driver, and those have helped build his reputation. The Driver barely utters any words in the movie, but he is able to speak volumes through mannerisms and body language.
We can tell that The Driver never lets too much get in between his work. The Driver very much reminds me of Neal, the character Robert De Niro played in Michael Mann’s “Heat.” The rules he has set for himself guide him and then they are shattered the moment he meets Irene (Carey Mulligan). Irene is a single mom whose husband (Oscar Isaac) is in prison. Irene and The Driver are drawn to each other in mysterious, hopeful ways. When Irene’s husband comes home, he is unable to let The Driver leave Irene alone. Then something terrible happens, something that could not only affect The Driver’s new relationship with Irene, but his partnership with Shannon (Bryan Cranston) who helps find scores for The Driver. The Driver is soon way over his head, but he chooses to persevere for Irene’s safety.
The film has an incredible ensemble that elevates this material to brand new heights. The work by Gosling is the glue to the film’s success and he able to do a lot by using little material from the script. Both Mulligan and Isaac are very good here, as is Cranston. There is also great work done by Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks, two middle-men for the Russian Mafia in Los Angeles who are also involved with Irene’s husband. Brooks in particular isn’t the conventional bad guy, and he brings a solid flair to the role. I think in 2012, the Academy really screwed the pooch by not nominating Brooks for a Supporting Actor Oscar, his work is that good.
I am sucker for a movie soundtracks and “Drive” has one of the best in recent years. The film feels like it was pulled out of the 1980’s. It feels like a vintage Michael Mann movie, the font for the credits are almost identical to the credits used in “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.” The music equally sounds as if it came from that era. The songs by bands like Desire, College and Kavinsky are effortlessly nostalgic and will filter the movie through a different lens. It is amazing to me how music can play such a pivotal role in a movie and how it can change them entirely. Finding the right music for a movie really can make or break an experience, and Refn succeeded with flying colors with “Drive.”
If you have not had the pleasure of experiencing “Drive” yet, I suggest you get on it immediately. It will make you want to sport a scorpion jacket.