By JUSTIN THOMPSON
You honestly have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. If you go into “Drive” expecting a feature length version of the thrill and stunt-studded trailer, you will have a similar reaction to that of my fellow moviegoers: confusion and disappointment.
“Drive” has been a critical favorite since its premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and has steadily gathered mainstream buzz built upon a fantastic cast and an excellent advertising campaign. But again, don’t be fooled by that trailer.“Drive” is an art house film that just happens to have some thrills and a splash of violence.
If you happened to have seen any previous films by director Nicolas Winding Refn, “Drive” won’t come as such a surprise. Keeping with Refn’s style, “Drive” is slow, with the first half of the film comprised of a slow-building character study.
Ryan Gosling plays the nameless Driver: a seemingly emotionless man without a past, a stunt car driver for Hollywood movies by day and a hired criminal getaway driver by night.
Gosling is a force in his role, keeping a stoic attitude and an infectious smile throughout the character-driven first act, which is a sharp contrast to the psychopathic bursts of violence he exhibits in the second act.
The audience is introduced to the cast of characters surrounding Driver throughout the first half of the film, including an underutilized Bryan Cranston and Carey Mulligan, who fails to shine as the lead actress opposite Gosling.
The always fantastic Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks round out the cast as the two antagonists, but it is Brooks’ portrayal that goes toe-to-toe with Gosling when it comes to dishing out brutality. A character that begins the film as both warm and understanding quickly begins to devolve into a violent and desperate man, capable of doing anything to survive.
The ability to slowly build up tension in film is the hallmark of good storytelling, but the ability to properly release that built up anticipation is an art form.
Throughout “Drive” you are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, and as the minutes tick by and the pressure continues to build, the inaction becomes almost unbearable. It comes to the point where you feel that only a thrilling car chase or a shootout with a comical body count will satisfy the insatiable need for release, but “Drive” is not so indulgent. Refn’s storytelling was so precise and measured that people in the theater actually cheered.
The second act is a simple revenge story marked with incredible violence. Driver’s psychopathic outbursts become the stars of the film and the ebb and flow of these moments is met with even more anticipation. The violence is visceral, beginning out of nowhere and ending just as quickly. The non-violent tension that dominates the beginning of the film makes the sudden outbursts shocking.
Refn’s direction is a tasteful homage to Stanley Kubrick in most aspects, most effectively with his sparse dialogue and thoughtful cinematography. Every shot seems painstakingly thought out and choreographed; the film is absolutely beautiful to watch.
The score is another highlight. It is full of dark 80’s synthesizer and pulsing bass that perfectly accompanies the pink cursive lettering seen on the promotional posters and opening credits.
“Drive” is not the adrenaline-fueled, car chase-filled, slick action film its manipulative advertising hints at. It is an intelligent, slow, thoughtful film that uses violence as an asset for storytelling and one that will most likely be misunderstood by the majority of people drawn in by one of the best trailers of the year.
As long as you are prepared and are aware of what you’re getting yourself into, “Drive” is a film that should be seen.
Image courtesy of onlinemovieshut.com