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Review: Drive (2011)

Drive (2011)

Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn

Premise: A Hollywood stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) agrees to be the getaway driver for a heist that goes bad.

What Works: As an exercise in filmmaking, Drive displays some terrific cinematic craft. The visuals by cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel use shadow and neon lighting very effectively and there are lots of striking images throughout the film, especially in the chase sequences that are shot almost entirely from the interior of the car. Drive also benefits from Ryan Gosling’s performance. His character has an understated loneliness and Gosling does a lot of great, subtle work in his performance.

What Doesn’t: The problem with Drive is that the film has no reason to exist. It does not really view like a proper motion picture so much as a demo reel. Drive has all kinds of impressive flourishes but it views like the final project of a film student who has studied every picture Michael Mann and Martin Scorsese ever made. The influence of films like Heat and Taxi Driver are all over this picture but the filmmakers behind Drive suffer from an an absence of purpose. There is undeniable cinematic skill behind the camera, Gosling’s performance is impressive, and it is a slickly assembled piece of work but Drive lacks creative heat or narrative coherence. Drive has the nub of a story but no plot. The film is a series of disconnected events and very few of the scenes unfold as a matter of cause and effect. Characters are introduced and their relationships have promise but there just isn’t anything to them and a number of supporting actors are wasted such as Carey Mulligan as the love interest and Ron Perlman as the lead villain. In its second half, Drive indulges in sudden bursts of gory violence and these scenes snap the viewer out of the film. The carnage is out of place in Drive; these scenes are wrong for its tone and storytelling style and come across not only as excessive but as unnecessary and distracting. As Drive move towards its ending, there is no climax. The final conflict does not resolve anything and in the end Gosling’s character has not resolved any of the issues that he faced at the beginning of the film.

Bottom Line: Drive is a film whose whole is less than the sum of its parts. Despite some strong imagery and a very good performance by Ryan Gosling, there just isn’t anything holding this film together.

Episode: #357 (October 2, 2011)