Drive

Merry Christmas, everyone! And to spoil the mood completely, let’s review one of the alleged best films of 2011. By “best” we mean it’s often praised, by “alleged” we are saying we’re not impressed.

As much as we try to avoid them, sometimes we cannot help it but catch a glimpse of trailers. Our cinema card allows us to print our own ticket, so thanks to meticulous planning, it’s possible to work out at which minute you have to enter the theatre to be just in time for the film and too late for the preceding commercials. True, this also means we’ll miss out on cinema trailers, but that isn’t awful for two reasons: you can also catch those at the film sites online and, even more important, they tend to suck anyway. In more cases than one, they are also misleading in order to goad as many whippersnappers to the theatres – (500) days of summer and Crazy, stupid, love being two recent examples. I did catch the trailer of Drive and didn’t really feel lured to go and see the film. Reason one: they actually managed to play the trailer twice in a row, which only adds to the annoyance. Reason two: oh look, it’s Ryan Gosling… again. Now there’s an actor we haven’t seen much of this year. Reason three: it looked quite like a dumb action movie.

Not very impressed then and the synopsis didn’t help much either. Gosling is a driver. He is a stuntman for movies, he works in a garage and he occasionally helps thugs as their getaway driver after another robbery. There is no specific reason as to why he does that, there’s hardly any character development: saying he’s two-dimensional would even be overestimating him. Actually, you can even catch that in the trailer. No, it’s not just a series of action-packed snippets from the film: that’s all there is to his character. There was hardly any reason why we wanted to see this film, was there?

Well, let’s digress. Ever since Stephen Moffat took over the Doctor Who wheel, the series has grown up. In a way, Doctor Who has become the equivalent of Harry Potter: Rowling also wanted the characters to grow up along with the readers, which is why the tone of the later books is allegedly – a term used here in the meaning of: don’t ask us, we haven’t ready any, we’re only quoting Wikipedia – heavier and darker. Even the earlier episodes in the Davies era which were penned by Moffat are our favourites and there’s hardly any character we’re fonder of – and yes, that does include all the Doctor’s companions – than Sally Sparrow of the brilliant episode “Blink”. Portraying her was one Carey Mulligan and guess who’s also starring in Drive…?

Ms Mulligan is Gosling’s next door neighbour and he cannot help but being intrigued by this woman. It turns out she’s a young mother and the wife of a convicted criminal. Not that this would be a surprise: the garageowner Gosling works for also has ties with local mob types. In fact, let’s just leave it at this: the entire city consists of criminals. Anyway, despite the fact that her husband is released from jail soon, Gosling and Mulligan grow towards each other, which doesn’t quite make her guy like Gosling very much. However, when Gosling returns home one day and find him bleeding on the ground with his little boy nearby and in shock, the two become BFFs and Gosling even offers to drive him to his final robbery – the debt the man still needs to pay for being safe in prison and the only way the local thugs wouldn’t harm Carey and their son. Things go wrong – ooh, surprise, surprise – and what follows can best be described as a brutal killing spree.

Which leads us to the biggest problem we had with the film: there’s no flow in the film whatsoever. You could argue that one hyperviolent scene can be followed by a softer scene because that’s how the storyline forces the film to change its pace, but because the characters aren’t developed, there are no reference points. And what’s even worse, sometimes the director inserted a couple of slow motion scenes. Nothing wrong with them, but they have to be used well: Confessions also had a couple of slow motion scenes but they helped to underline the poetry of the film. Drive isn’t poetic and as a result, the scenes feel out of place and only cause the film to appear even more random. Yes, some of the slow motion scenes look nice, but they didn’t help the film to change its pace: it was as if someone has accidently pushed the slo-mo button and noticed this after 20 seconds.

Even the soundtrack has this problem: there’s one recurring track (“A real hero” – see below) underlying the mysterious relationship between Gosling and Mulligan, but it sounds quite different from some of the other tracks, which once again doesn’t help the film find some unity.

The mobsters, the violence, the mysterious protagonist… it felt as if this film wanted to bring the Japanese movie culture into a western movie. As the United States are not Japan, the result simply feels unjust. Another director who is a self-professed fan of Japanese cinema, is our good old friend Ta****ino (a.k.a. The Thief) and Drive is one of those films which was praised as similar to the Thief’s style. Much like Locks, Stocks and we all know how many masterpieces that director made later in his career. In 2011, even the Thief’s star isn’t what it used to be: the internet gave us many of the films he copied and his “unique style” is only still mentioned by those reviewers who stay away from older cult movies as if they were viral.
By comparison, the violent scenes (the bathroom and elevator scenes immediately spring out here) don’t really go together with the rest of the film. True, this is a movie about tough guys, but those scenes don’t underline that, they give you the feeling of a naughty infant shouting “look at what I there”. Don’t you see how edgy I am?

Well, frankly, the answer is no. But as it’s Christmas and we don’t want to spoil the mood completely, the very best scene in the film is an emotional one between Gosling and Mulligan. They stand near each other (as you can see on the still around these words). Nothing much happens, but Mulligan’s breathing reveals the intensity. That is the sort of tension the movie tried to create at the beginning but failed to do so when the story speeds away from the starting blocks. Anyway, that’s the Avenue’s opinion. Apparently the rest of the world claims this is a masterpiece. Even the presence of Ron Perlman and Christina Hendricks couldn’t save this film for us, so all we’re left with is a scene with an actress breathing heavily. Still that’s something and one day, when we grow up, we’ll probably like this film – according to a much liked comment on the YouTube page for the song below: “Drive is a grown up film. All you children stop commenting on how boring it was. Grow up and maybe you’ll one day understand this masterpiece of a film.” Please excuse us, it’s now our time to play on the seesaw…

4.5/10

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3 thoughts on “Drive

  1. deeopey January 4, 2012 / 09:56

    Glad you agree!

    I hate to be told how great film is, and especially that it’s “my sort of thing”, only to watch it and find it misses the point completely.

    Drive is vacuous, its threadbare plot just hardly anything new to anyone that watched more than one spaghetti western or any rote 80’s action flick.

    We’re supposed to think that it’s a film where plot doesn’t matter, it’s a film of emotion, depth, and art. As you mentioned while the violent punctuating scenes are themselves well made and they should stand out in stark contrast from the rest of the film they just don’t gel.

    It’s a bunch of cool ideas jumbled in to a neon mess. To use the cliche, all style no substance.

  2. deeopey January 4, 2012 / 09:57

    “Drive is a grown up film. All you children stop commenting on how boring it was. Grow up and maybe you’ll one day understand this masterpiece of a film.” Please excuse us, it’s now our time to play on the seesaw…

    yes and yes indeed 🙂

  3. kurtodrome January 5, 2012 / 21:57

    Nice to see someone else on the playground. Especially since “Drive” has been in almost every Best of 2011 list I’ve seen after writing this review.

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