by Doug Duke
My most anticipated film of the year, DRIVE, played on September 6th, 2011 at the Aero Theatre and I was blown away! Director Nicholas Winding Refn’s American directorial debut does not disappoint. It’s the first film he actually didn’t write but he threw himself all over this film. It’s so stylized; it is an 80’s film no question but made by a master! I’ve seen it one more time since and I loved it even more. I’ve also had the soundtrack since and I have not played anything else for weeks, seriously. I cannot express to you enough in my own words how much I LOVE the film. Funny thing is, I like his PUSHER Trilogy, BRONSON, and VALHALLA RISING more. Needless to say, I am a huge fan of Mr. Refn.
Oh yeah, what’s the film about? If you haven’t heard by now Ryan Gosling is Driver. He is a Hollywood stunt driver and mechanic by day and a getaway driver by night. Whatever you need from him, you have a 5 minute window — he’s got your back anytime in that 5 minutes, a minute before that or after and that’s on you. He drives.
It has the old elements of a western: the hero tries to do what’s right and protect a girl and her son, he gets involved, a deal goes wrong. He tries to make it right. You have your hero and your bad guys. Typical things, if that’s how you look at it, BUT it’s the master behind the camera telling you the story that makes it just remarkable. His shots, visions, the performances he gets, the music, everything is masterfully crafted and put on screen for us to enjoy thoroughly.
I knew we were going to be in for a violent ride. The movie is a drama, it’s gotten rave reviews by critics but audiences not so much. It’s possible they expected a FAST & FURIOUS type film, but you’ll get nothing of that sort here. You’re getting a character drama that’s very symbolic, psychological, and emotional. When the action does come though, look the fuck out! It’s gory for sure but it’s ridiculous how artistic it is!
During the Q&A, one older lady asked something along the lines of, ‘Did you guys have a a talk about the violence on how it can reflect on society before you made the film?” One of the producers, Adam Siegel, was on hand and he simply replied: “No.” He even kinda smiled and laughed as he moved on to the next question.
It was funny because just with that gesture right there, you knew that these are guys who love making movies and love using their imagination. This isn’t a film that advocates violence, but it’s brutally there. This is a piece of art, it’s not trying to retell a true story and say something about today’s society. It’s a film that you want to work on as a director, actor, producer, writer, cinematographer, grip, even a PA and you want to make because it can be so much fun it’s an amazing film. It’s something to be proud of at the end of the day. It’s something to be very proud of because it’s probably the best film of the year. In my eyes so far, I think I’m going with ‘yes’.
I didn’t even get into the performances yet. Gosling, I mean is he really ever bad? No. Mulligan so great and beautiful. Ron Pearlman? Oh man, the comic relief and then he has this one scene that kind of just floors you. Don’t forget Albert Brooks, which is who most people are talking about. No reason why you shouldn’t. He’s frightening. He lives by his own moral code though, I guess you got to give him that. They all do actually; everyone has that old moral code like an old samurai film and again, a western. Different psyches, different codes, though.
I believe I’ve said enough. Trust me I would love to go on and on about this film and I already have but let’s be honest have you even read this far?
Thank you as always to KCET, the Johnny Mercer Foundation, the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre & Staff, Producer Adam Siegel, and HUGE thanks to Pete Hammond for picking this film for the series and as always, running the show!
I’ll be seeing DRIVE for a third time very soon!