MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★
Drive‘s first getaway sequence is one of those fantastic film openings which is both intriguing and utterly compelling drama from the very beginning. Edge of your seat stuff and it’s only just started.
The ingenious getaway sucks you straight into Ryan Gosling’s character – who is he and why does he getaway drive for a living?
Ryan Gosling seems to be one of the biggest names in Hollywood at the moment, with two big roles coming out simultaneously. But here he is given no name and has little to say and a large air of mystery. This is perfectly fine at beginning, I loved watching his brain tick without being quite sure what was going on beneath it, but it did get a little frustrating as the character remained constantly distant and never quite human enough to be sympathetic or mean enough to seem threatening.
It’s got a strong plot. The Driver works as a car mechanic and moonlights as a criminal getaway driver. He falls for Irene (Carey Mulligan) and because he cares about her and her kid, he makes the strange but nevertheless understandable decision to use his getaway skills to help protect Irene’s husband, who’s just been released from prison. Things go wrong and the Driver quickly finds himself in the midst of slightly more than he bargained for.
What really made me keen to see this film was the fantastic cast. Alongside the much hyped Mr Gosling, we have Carey Mulligan who last time left me an absolute wreck in the devastatingly emotional Never Let Me Go. Unfortunately, in Drive her character is never given any chance to show any depth. Also in supporting roles are Bryan Cranston (who blows me away every single week with his incredible performances as school-teacher-turned-drug-manufacturer in AMC’s TV series, Breaking Bad) who does a good job as an overconfident schemer and mechanic. Other big names in the supporting cast include Ron Pearlman and a truly unrecognizable Christina Hendricks, who looks a million miles away from her role on Mad Men.
So it’s a cast that oozes with talent and potential. They all do a good enough job although I really wish certain members were given more to do and I was slightly frustrated by Gosling’s silent dead pan (I know, criticize Ryan Gosling – my nerve!). If a lead character is going to be so silent but also such a morally ambiguous (and violent) hero, then I would like to see a bit more intensity in his face. The film contains a lot of violence which seems straight out of Tarantino’s Textbook and although I never shy away from watching the blood being spilled, I don’t feel the tone quite built up to the execution of the violent which is very bloody indeed. It didn’t so much feel gratuitous, but it just didn’t match the tone.
It’s a very quiet film despite the gore, a decision sometimes coming across as brave and dramatic and at others feeling awkward and unnecessary. I do feel this stops us from really getting into the characters’ heads (especially the Driver and Irene) when sometimes you just want to know how they’re feeling and I don’t think the direction always managed to convey these emotions.
The soundtrack is extremely odd. Often ambient and pulsating, building tension and matching the rhythms of a car but then all that good work is spoiled by the big moments which sound completely ghastly. The dream-pop refrain ‘a real human being and a real hero‘ pops up a couple times and just made me request the sick bag rather than the cathartic ending they were going for. I don’t want to say too much, but in terms of action the ending could have been executed so much more boldly and instead felt a bit limp.
Admittedly, I have come across as rather harsh. It is stylish and well polished. It does feel intriguing but just lacks the pay off required. It’s a strong dramatic effort and I can certainly understand it’s appeal and I admire its audacious silences. Despite its faults, I wish it the best of luck.
Drive is out now in the UK and USA. Certificate 18 (UK)
Review by David Rank