Nostalgia’d Review: Drive (2011)

This Week, Ryan Gosling Decides To Race His Way Into My Heart With Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive!

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[Credit: FilmDistrict]
Standard: All right. So I illegally walked over to a seventeen year old girl. And I walk up and I say, “Hello, Miss. What is your name?” And she didn’t say anything.
And then I said, “Well my name is Standard Gabriel.”
Then what did you say?
Irene: I said, “Where’s the deluxe version?”

Based on the 2005 novel by James SallisDrive follows the unnamed Driver (Ryan Gosling), a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a criminal-for-hire-getaway driver, as he forms a bond with his neighbour, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son while her husband (Oscar Isaac) is in prison. When dangerous circumstances arise, the Driver is tasked with utilizing his talents to stay alive. The film also stars Bryan Cranston as the Driver’s well-meaning employer, Shannon, Albert BrooksRon Perlman as a pair of mobsters who love utilizing profamity to express themselves – I am all too familiar with that idea – and is directing by the stylistically stylish Nicolas Winding Refn (Only God Forgives, The Neon Demon).

The Driver Is A Phenomenal Character

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If you are familiar with director Refn’s work, you know many of his characters are not given elaborate backstories which allows the audience to learn as much as they need to learn as the film progresses, nothing more nothing less. He is a big believer in the concept of showing and not telling. Whenever we see the Driver interact with others, he expresses himself in two or three words, maybe seven if he is feeling frisky. We know he moved to Los Angeles a few years ago and began working for Shannon at the garage, the aforementioned Shannon being one of the few in his life that he feels comfortable enough to say more than a few words to.

Irene’s son, Benicio is another person the Driver feels comfortable enough to hold an entire conversation with, particularly when discussing the moralistic aptitude of a television shark. It is because of the few tidbits we are given about the Driver that makes him such an intriguing character. We know the very basics about him and want to learn more about how he managed to perfect his driving and hammering skills.

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[Credit: FilmDistrict]
He feels like a regular human yet there is something superhuman about him – if that makes sense. Refn illustrates this idea by revealing that the nature of the Driver character is meant to be more than what the surface conveys:

“… The Driver was meant to become a superhero, and he’s denied all these things—relationships, companionship. And why would he be denied that? It was because he was meant for something greater.”

There are certain moments where he manages to pull off the seemingly impossible and I genuinely wondered how the fuck did he do that?? This idea certainly lends credence to the notion that he is a powerful being in a hyper-realistic world… And that is what I love about it! Since Gosling is spectacular in the role, you want to see more of whatever it is he is doing even if that means suspending your disbelief that this man is not your regular human. His eyes speak wonders by staring at whatever he happens to be staring at; whether it be glaring into the eyes of an enemy or gazing at the ridiculously gorgeous nighttime LA roads.

I never thought I would be ecstatic at the prospect of someone being colour blind, however Refn attributes his inability to seeing mid-colours as a reason why all his films are very contrasted:

“… If it were anything else I couldn’t see it.”

The Gorgeous Cinematography of Drive:

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No Surprise Here: The Soundtrack Is A Character Itself

Refn regular, Cliff Martinez composes the synth-heavy score for Drive and the soundtrack features a number of amazing artists including Desire, my favourite track of the film (“A Real Hero”) by College and Electric Youth and, of course, the song most associated with the film: “Nightcall” by Kavinsky. For those that have never seen or heard anything about Drive, the opening title credits for the film – following a beautifully tension-filled opening sequence – will intrigue you at least a tiny bit to check out what the film is about:

Favourite Scene! (SPOILERS)

Alright, do you want to know the exact moment where I felt the most excited to see what would transpire in Drive? The first seven minutes of the movie. Refn does not waste any time in getting straight into the action and by “action,” I am not only referring to zooming car chases and destruction. Why I appreciate Drive as much as I do is because it doesn’t have to resort to the seemingly hour-long car chases to grab my attention. The film is very much a character piece, an aspect to it I’m sure a few were unfamiliar with when they initially went into it (more on that below).

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[Credit: FilmDistrict]
As the beginning sequence unfolded, I expected that bombastic car chase to ensue since I have become accustomed to that occurring in virtually every car-based film I have seen. As a character piece enthusiast, imagine my surprise when the 2:30 mark happened and instead of barreling down the road to an imminent car chase, the Driver pulled off to the side and turned off the car lights.

  • The Subversion Of Expectation. As mentioned, I did not expect at all for the Driver to pull to the side. I fully expected some type of chase to occur since he accelerated out of the spot and headed toward the road. When they were on the bridge with the helicopter looming over them and were seemingly caught, I then said to myself “okay NOW the chase will happen…” He pulled into a garage and Grand Theft Auto-style waited until the heat wore off. Finally he exited and pulled up to a red light, cop car straight ahead waiting for his next move, “alright now that chase will happen…” The Driver pulls off his ingenious plan that made me fall in love.
  • The Incorporation Of The Radio. Throughout the sequence, I wondered why the shit this guy was so fixated on the Clippers game. TURN THAT DOWN AND PAY ATTENTION TO THE ROA– Ohhhhhhhh… Oh. That’s dirty. And great. Dirty and great all over.
  • The Lack Of Bitching From The Guys In The Back. The classic trope of the people who burst into the car when they are in a rush and yell at the driver to “hurry up! Go faster! Get us out of here!” Motherfucker, the person in control of the vehicle is more than aware that they need to drive. You screeching in their ear what is equivalent to saying “the sky is blue!” is not helping anyone. These guys got in the car and allowed the getaway driver to do what the getaway driver should do… Get away.

See My Favourite Scene Below:

The ‘I Have Been Duped!’ Lawsuit

Somebody on the Earth sued the distribution company behind Drive, FilmDistrict, for “[promoting] the film… as very similar to the Fast and Furious, or similar, series of movies.” In 2011, Sarah Deming of Michigan believed the film would be more in vein of Fast and the Furious instead of in the style of a fucking Nicolas Winding Refn movie and stated:

“Drive bore very little similarity to a chase, or race action film… having very little driving in the motion picture…”

She was also offended by the idea that the film features a criminal Jewish mobster who utters derogatory remarks against his people because THAT IS HIS CHARACTER:

“Drive was a motion picture that substantially contained extreme gratuitous defamatory dehumanizing racism directed against members of the Jewish faith, and thereby promoted criminal violence against members of the Jewish faith.”

Deming wanted a refund for her movie ticket, in addition to halting the production of “misleading movie trailers” in the future. “The plaintiff intends to turn her individual case into a class action lawsuit, thereby allowing fellow movie-goers an opportunity to share in the settlement.”

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‘Billy Madison’ [Credit: Universal Studios]
If I haven’t conveyed my opinion on this issue enough, I firmly believe this woman is a moron. Not for feeling like a trailer misled her but because she believed suing was a legitimate option. Certain trailers are misleading as fuck. Welcome to the world of the movie trailer. I was duped into thinking The Phantom Menace was the second coming of Christ and look at that shit pile.

Check Out The Trailer In Question Below, However Be Warned It’s Spoilerific:

Did the trailer of Drive make it seem like a super action-packed movie? Sure. Does that warrant suing for anything? Maybe in Fantasyland where unicorns are the authority and it rains chocolate kisses.

And don’t get me started on her claiming the film portrays Jewish people in a negative light. The film portrays criminals in a negative light… You know, BECAUSE THEY’RE CRIMINALS. I guess she also missed the whole point of Nino (Perlman) using the derogatory term to express just how shitty their family is… You know, BECAUSE OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.

Five Years Later Update…

This lawsuit hasn’t let up. Thankfully for the judges with common sense:

“A judge in Oakland, Mich. rejected plaintiff Sarah Deming’s putative class action in March 2012, concluding that there was no misrepresentations of material fact even assuming the trailer contained subliminal anti-Semitism.”

Apparently following the rejection, the plaintiff tried to get the judge removed from the case for allegedly being anti-Semitic himself. That dispute went to a Michigan appeals court which, on October 15th, 2013:

“… [Handed] down a decision that stated in part, ‘Any affirmative representations the trailer made about being a racing movie were not inaccurate; the movie does contain driving scenes… Moreover, plaintiff, contrary to her hyperbole, does not refer us to any actual violence against, or even criticism of, Jews that has resulted from the film being shown.’

Apparently the plaintiff’s lawyer (Martin H. Leaf) has not given up on the idea that the film contains anti-Semitic messages so this saga will continue.

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‘The Happening’ [Credit: 20th Century Fox]

If you’re looking for a Fast And The Furious-esque picture, Drive that is not. If you’re interested in watching a visually pleasing character piece on a man who is so much more than just a talent behind the wheel, I highly recommend checking out Drive.

Drive receives a Matt Damon whooping it up in The Martian.

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‘The Martian’ [Credit: 20th Century Fox]

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featured image source: James White
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