“Drive” was an excellent, high calibre, praiseworthy movie experience.

Directed with confidence and style by newcomer to American cinema Nicolas Winding Refn,  drive is the best movie I’ve seen in theatres this year by a longshot, and most certainly will be in discussion for movie of the year here, if not the actual Oscars.

In fact, the only real criticism I have of it is that there were several times during the film I found myself wondering if I was watching a film that was going to register amongst the greats, if I was meeting a new film to my personal top fifty for the first time. It never quite got there, but I think the best way to present that isn’t to put that out there negatively, but to put it out there positively.

This is a film that flirts with greatness.

“Drive” centers around an unnamed character who drives and works on cars for a living. Let’s call him “The Kid”. He was called kid a couple of times by Bryan Cranston’s character, so… By day he works in a garage and does stunt driving for Hollywood movies. Occasionally however, he does getaway driving for crimes.

Like so many Hollywood criminals, “the Kid’s” trouble begins when he falls for a woman. Down the hall from his spartan apartment lives Irene, played wonderfully by Carey Mulligan, a mother raising her son by herself while her husband is in jail. After bumping in to her a couple of times, “The Kid” falls for both her and her son in a big way.

Unfortunately, her husband is due to be released shortly.

And when her husband comes home, he brings a world of trouble with him.

As you can imagine, with two criminals so prominently in the fore, this is a film populated with lowlifes, gangsters, and molls. “Drive” is a crime thriller, replete with double-crossing, heists, violence and danger. It establishes the stakes well by creating a genuine emotional connection between “The Kid”, Irene and her child, and then tosses “The Kid” into the pool with the sharks.

Refn is the true star of the show to me, wielding the camera like an artist, mixing musical styles in his soundtrack, crafting some realistic action and tossing in some shocking brutality. He is obviously someone to keep an eye on, and now I definitely have to go back and check out his previous efforts. Words like confident, restrained, intelligent, and bold kept popping into my mind when thinking about how to describe his style as I watched this movie.

That isn’t to say that the acting isn’t top-notch here. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brooks gets nominated for an Academy Award for a supporting role. He’s that kind of good as the movie’s chief Gangster, and Hollywood loves to reward famous names for great efforts. It also wouldn’t shock me if Mulligan was recognized with a nomination, she’s already been nominated once (“An Education”), she may do it again here. Perlman is awesome as the muscle end of a pair of gangsters, and Cranston is awesome as well as a sort of de facto manager for “The Kid”. Gossling himself in the lead is certainly fine, but the part is intentionally minimalistic, so… he does a great job of acting alternately tough and cool, I’ll give him that.

As I said, I kept wondering if this movie was an all time great as I watched it. It DEFINITELY tests your patience at times, but it’s certainly worth it. I guess I was just conditioned by Hollywood to expect a more explosive finale after this kind of slow burn build up. And while the finale was certainly cathartic enough, it wasn’t the hail of bullets or furious car chase that I was expecting.

Which isn’t a knock, just adjust your expectations. This movie is relatively light on the action, and certainly has less “driving” than you’d expect, but the plot and characters and tension and directing are all top-notch.

I have no hesitation giving it an A.

19 thoughts on “Drive

    • Absolutely. If I didn’t have my own expectations to deal with, I’d have definitely enjoyed it more.

      I’m not sure I’m 100% 100% behind the ending, but the flick is easily the best movie I’ve seen this year.

      • Interested to know your interpretations of the ending. (Spoilers of course) At the end of the film do you think he’s dying and just chose to spend his last minutes on earth driving, doing the only thing he’s ever been able to connect with emotionally? I mean once you get stabbed in the gut like that there’s pretty much no helping you unless you get some quick medical attention, and he didn’t seem that eager to go to the hospital.

        Or do you think he chose not to go back to Irene out of fear for her safety if he did?

        If anything, I like the ambiguity of the ending.

      • Thanks for stopping by Ryan!

        You know (and you’re right SPOILERS!!)

        I emailed Castor over at Anomalous Materials about this, and he thinks he lived, left the money and drove off out of fear for Irene’s safety, just as you suggest.

        Me personally? I’m still not convinced. Things got awful glowey in that car… and he didn’t seem to be going to get help. Perhaps the end is symbolic of him leaving the concerns of earth behind.

        I think it needs a re-view. Whats your take?

  1. (Spoilers again)
    Ive seen the film twice now, and am still not quite sure how it ends, it’s too ambiguous.

    Because I’m a hopeless romantic, my ideal ending would be The Driver on his way back to the apartment and Irene. Definitely the least likely of the three, but the one I would prefer nonetheless.

    The most likely of the three, in my opinion, is that he’s dying and chose to spend his last moments alive on the road.

    • THAT’S a good take on it. The “last moments on the road”… but… wasnt it dark when he was driving? Not sure. Thought they showed it dark…

      Definitely left ambiguous though. Maybe on another watch through I’ll pick up the ONE detail I missed or something and be like Ah Ha! And at the very least convince myself…

      Its a good discussion though.

      • (Spoilers)

        Just saw the film for a 3rd time (I promise I’m not obsessed) and there’s no doubt in my mind that he dies in the end. He’s driving completely outside of LA, and you really don’t recover from being stabbed like that unless you get some pretty quick medical attention — something he doesn’t seem too eager to pursue.

      • I love it! I haven’t seen it again (new movies all the time, man, LOL) but I love that the movie inspires this kind of debate.

        Its going to make a lot of top ten lists this year, easily. And wind up being a lot of people’s favorite.

      • I saw Moneyball a couple of weeks ago at TIFF, so it was between Killer Elite, a Morgan Freeman dolphin movie, or Taylor Lautner. I think you’ll agree with my choice in the end :P.

  2. Top Notch review….Saw this last weekend and loved it. Its the best movie I have seen this year. I know some people are complaining about it but I really enjoyed the pacing of the film. When the violence kicked in people walked out of the showing I was in and you coule here people gasping and a bunch of “o my gods”

    Two quick things, did you notice he only drives American cars in the film…. refreshing and ballsy IMO. Secondly, spoiler…… I have seen some print interviews with Refn where he states he lives…

    Did you ever see Valhalla Rising?

    • You know? I watched it this week, but I haven’t finished it so… no spoilers about how it ends, I only have about a half an hour left! It’s… trippy, LOL, I’ll say that. I need to wait to see how it ends to pass judgement.

      I think if he lives (Drive now), that would be… I dont know. Improbable? Obviously I’m not doubting your source or anything, I’m just saying, within the context it seems so unlikely.

      The coolest one Ive been hearing is that he wanted to die behind the wheel. I like that.

      As far as the pacing goes, I think a repeat viewing is going to be very telling for me. Now that its free of the burden of my ridiculous expectations, is it going to fare even better the second time around? We’ll see.

      Thanks for commenting! 😀

  3. Fogs,

    Glad I stopped by the site before deciding on this flick. It did not disappoint, not one bit. I loved the pace the film was shot at and some of those scenes were really graphic to say the least – the elevator, Christine Hendricks in the bathroom scene. And I like endings like that, ones that don’t necessarily spell it out for you and leave you guessing. I doubt I will ever look at an old Albert Brooks movie in the same way again, especially after the fork in the diner scene. Appreciate the write up, it definitely reinforced my desire to see the flick and I am glad I did. Keep up the great work sir, us readers appreciate it.


    • Thank you, buddy, thank you. Always great to hear the kind words.

      Its also great to share the love of a good movie though, and I’m glad I could steer you towards that one. Glad you saw all the awesomeness I did in it.

      Now you know why I put it in my top five. Apparently I only gave it an A when I did my just stepped out of the theatre review… I would definitely up that to an A+ now if I could.

      Again, thanks, and super glad you like it too. Its a great flick. Belongs right in the mix with the Usual Suspects and Resevoir Dogs.

  4. Pingback: The Large Association of Movie Blogs | LAMBScores: Drive and Straw Dogs

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