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Drive was hands down one of my favourite movies of 2011. The film has excellent pacing and is beautifully shot. Aesthetically, the film felt like a strange mix of an 80’s crime drama (helped along by the pulsating electro-pop soundtrack) and minimalist European cinema. It is a strange collision that works quite well.
The plot is simple. A quiet seemingly nameless young man, the Driver, (played by Ryan Gosling) works as a mechanic and stunt driver by day, and lends his services to criminals as a get-away driver by night. He meets and forms a bond with his neighbours, a young woman named Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her son Benecio (Kaden Leos). He comes to love them and resolves to be their protector. When Irene’s husband, Standard (Oscar Issac), is released from jail, it starts a series of events which culminate into a brutally violent end.
Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan are fantastic. Neither character says very much, communication radiates out from their eyes and body language. Muted as they both may be, their physicality, mixed with the few lines they do speak, go a long way. The camera work and lighting also assist the audiences reading of scenes by amplifying the feelings the actors are working towards by introducing a range of temperature to the film. Scenes literally have a way of feeling hot or cold in ways that are clearly meant to assist in our collective reading of what takes place. When Gosling is alone or working on a heist, many of these scenes feel cold, metallic and shot in cold grey tones with hardly any colour. When there is colour present, such as at a night club scene, it seems harsh. His is a world of cool calculation and machinary. When the Driver is with Irene, the feeling of the film changes, becoming warm and comforting. We take a ride on the Driver’s emotions. Warms tones are present as he drives with Irene at night, sits in the dim light of her apartment and visits a hidden creek with her and her son. We feel the love and companionship between these characters. And still there are other scenes, such as the beautiful and brutal elevator scene, where we shift from warm to cold, love to malice.
This film is not for everyone. The entire first two thirds of the movie unfold in a slow and meticulous manner, serving as a long build up to an explosively violent end, which left me both shocked and exhilarated. While not for the faint of heart, or those lacking in patience, Drive is one of the best mainstream films released this year, and well worth the ride.

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