Top 100 Films Of The 2010’s – #21 – Drive (2011)


RELEASED: 23rd September 2011

DIRECTOR: Nicolas Winding Refn

CAST: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks, Kaden Leos, James Biberi, Jeff Wolfe and Russ Tamblyn

BUDGET: $15m

BOX OFFICE WORLDWIDE: $76.2m

AWARDS: None (Academy Award nomination, Golden Globe nomination and 3 BAFTA nominations)

A mysterious Hollywood stuntman and mechanic moonlights as a getaway driver and finds himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbour in this action drama.

 

Drive takes us right into the heart of Los Angeles where we follow the mysterious driver, a man of few words who not only works as a Hollywood stunt driver, but also is a mechanic at a garage working for his closest and only friend Shannon. By night however he moonlights as a getaway driver in heists which one day he decides to get involved and help his next door neighbour Irene’s husband to rob a pawn shop to pay back for protection he had in prison. When the heist doesn’t go according to plan, he must find a way to protect Irene’s family from the mob.

 

On the release of its release, it seemed that Drive was one of the most divisive films at the time, either you came down to the side that loved it or the side that hated it. For me, Drive remains one of my favourite films from the decade. With it’s terrific opening heist sequence in which we remain in the car with Ryan Gosling’s ‘Man with no name’ character from the beginning of the heist, right until he parks the car and casually walks off without causing attention to himself as he gets away with it. Once it fades to black and immediately cuts right into a birds-eye view of the bright lights of Los Angeles at night, to the sound of Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall’, it feels like you’re in for something special and Nicolas Winding Refn’s direction immediately had me hooked. With little dialogue, the narrative structure is still very well told, with the driver finding out that Standard Gabriel husband of his next door neighbour, Irene, has been released from prison but still owes protection money and is asked by an Albanian gangster to rob a certain pawnshop to repay his debt. Once he agrees to help Standard, things go from bad to worse as he discovers that a simple pawnshop robbery is more than it appears to be. Refn frames the car sequences well, from the opening scene to breaking away from the pawnshop robbery, which edited seamlessly by Matthew Newton. Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography work is also terrific here, particularly in how he captures the lighting in certain scenes, for example the elevator scene in which the driver finally kisses Irene before attacking the hitman. The soundtrack, as well as the original score by Cliff Martinez, works beautifully well with the film in fitting with the moments and tone of the narrative. While much is made of Ryan Gosling’s performance (sometimes mocked for the timing of delivering dialogue) I thought he is great as the strong, mostly-silent type character with no name or origin though his character perfectly balancing between The Scorpion and The Frog fable (some could refer to the Driver being the Frog that carries Scorpions in his car just as some could refer to him being the Scorpion when in his car when he’s moonlighting as a getaway driver and appear to outside environment he’s the awkward and weak Frog, but a Scorpion underneath). The rest of the ensemble are great too, with Carey Mulligan bringing an understated vulnerability to the role of Irene, the ten up-and-coming Oscar Isaac is really good as Standard Gabriel, who could be written as a character to root against and fall under the cliché of feeling threatened by the driver’s relationship with his wife but I thought his character was handled really well. Veteran actors Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman are great in their roles as autoshop owner and driver’s friend Shannon, local gangsters Bernie Rose and Nino, with Brooks in particular bringing a moody edge to his performance of a figure that has a friendly face but a mean streak lying underneath.

 

FAVOURITE SCENE: The elevator scene. Possibly the sweetest moment in the film quickly followed up by its most violent.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “Nice to meet you.

 

My hands are a little dirty.

 

So are mine.” – Bernie Rose and Driver

DID YOU KNOW: After Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Winding Refn removed much of the Driver’s dialogue, Bryan Cranston felt that his character, Shannon, should make up for the lack of talking in the film, and thus made Shannon a motormouth. Much of his dialogue is improvised.

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