By Philip Newton (England)
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Drive on the surface appears to be simply another Fast and the Furious style nuts and bolts thriller; I certainly had that preconception based on its advertising. The results are anything but routine, Drive is an intense and deep visceral experience, which manages to take the cinematic archetype of the lone driver and create a hybrid of eighties retro, and stylish art house cinema making for a powerful and unique cinematic experience.

The film centres on Ryan Gosling whom is simply known as the driver, we do not know him by any other name, and knows but one thing, to be the best driver he can be. He drives for movies as a stunt driver and also tries his hand as a racing car driver; one of his main jobs however is as a getaway driver for criminals pulling bank jobs. He has a simple guideline for his clients to follow, he’ll give them five minutes, within that time he’s theirs anything either side of that and they’re on their own, he carries no guns he just drives.

It’s a simple code to live by and it’s all the driver knows and all he has in his life, this all changes however when he takes an interest in neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and the two become close, and her and young son gives the driver something else to live for. Things become complicated when her husband is released from prison, carrying debts of protection money that need to be paid and when Irene and her son’s lives are threatened, the driver steps in to help. What follows is the driver getting involved in the dark and murky world of organised crime, which he has no business in other than for the new found love of Irene and is ready to do anything to ensure her safety.

As I previously stated Drive comprises firstly an exciting eighties retro style, mainly in regards to its soundtrack which is heavily synthesized, and somehow manages to flow throughout the whole film, creating a tone and feel very reminiscing of the band Tangerine Dream who scored several soundtracks for eighties films. The music helps create a heightened emotional connection to the imagery, which is always the case in a film, however, here is important as it has to often reflect the position of the driver as a loner in a world of his own riding at night.

The film then has a great art house sensibility, which truly works alongside the score, imagery is crucial here as there isn’t a tremendous amount of dialogue in the film, lots of scenes are told visually. It almost feels at times like the film moves in dream state, with lots of slow motion scenes extending specific moments in time to reflect certain emotions that the director wants us to feel.

This is used to greatest effect in my opinion in the elevator scene which within the span of several minutes manages to reflect quite contrasting styles and emotions and manages to do it seamlessly. From the initial set up of the driver, Irene and a shady looking character which is framed in regular time, to the long slow motion sequence and romantic embrace of the driver and Irene, to the frantic bloody violence seen often in the film, and then back to slow motion in the aftermath between the driver and Irene. We are able to feel all these emotions through no dialogue just skilful direction looking to capture extreme intensity both for the good and the bad.

The film also evokes strong memories of Michael’s Mann’s work especially in regards to how director Nicolas Winding Refn uses the camera to reflect the night, which is important as the driver has a strong connection to the night in terms of when he works jobs and his isolation from society. Refn illuminates the night, and much like Mann helps create an emotional connection to the city at night very similar to films such as Heat and Collateral.

From a performance standpoint Gosling is very effective in a role with very little dialogue; he is very good at displaying deep internal emotions, which are reflected through his actions rather than through dialogue which help brings more authenticity to the role.

Another surprisingly refreshing performance comes from Albert Brooks whom typically plays the joker role, however here is uncharacteristically chilling as a local crime lord, definitely a performance to watch out for.

Overall an intense cinematic experience, and whether loved or hated, it will leave an impression on the viewer.

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