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Drive (2011) Movie Review

Drive Movie Poster

I’m not sure what drove me to see Drive. Watching the trailer left me thinking Drive was a story about a race car driver who works on the side driving getaway cars for thieves and other criminals. Some aspects made it look like an action roadster movie with tons of chase scenes and big ‘escape the police’ action sequences.

There’s a little bit of that, but a whole lot more under the hood. The director, Nicolas Winding Refn, has recreated a 1970s styled….Burt Reynolds flick mixed with a little James Dean cool. Ryan Gosling (also in The Notebook and The Ides of March, opposite George Clooney) is cast as ‘the kid’, an unnamed mechanic with a sordid past and dangerous alter-ego hiding behind his outer shell of innocence. It’s a great casting that at first makes you wonder how ‘the kid’ can change the world around him with his quiet and soft demeanor.

The plot is pretty simple and straightforward. The kid befriends a lone mother and child and their growing relationship is complicated by the release of the boy’s father, a Standard Gabriel (played by Oscar Isaac from Sucker Punch). His troubles follow him out of the box as he finds himself still boxed in and needs to pull off one last job. It’s an odd proposition for our driver. He has the unique skill-set to help, but why is he risking his life, only to help the woman he wants- move on without him? If everything goes well…c’mon you know the rest. That last job never turns out as planned.

A woman who left the theater ahead of me said she felt like her stomach tightened up and only relaxed as the credits rolled. I agree. This is a suspenseful movie that revels in its atmosphere. It feels dark and ominous. The cinematography and location(s) help sink us into bleakness as L.A. is rendered as a far away glittery and dreamy backdrop to the darkest of places, characters and deeds.
Bernie Rose, played by Albert Brooks, is the perfect combination of mobster, thug and 1940s gangster. When meeting the kid, there is a tense moment when a handshake is expected. The Driver pauses and you wonder if their relationship is going to start off with an insult. The kid says his hands are dirty and so that’s why he’s not shaking hands. Bernie Rose replies ‘so are mine’. The double meaning of ‘dirty hands’ and the interplay between characters throughout is well scripted and executed.

At some point I would like to revisit this movie and discuss it again after it’s been around a while so we can include spoilers and twists.

In conclusion, this is one of my favorite movies. I felt like I had seen a throwback to a grittier era. The on-screen violence is filmed in a very realistic way. It’s shocking without being done for shock value. It also explains why your stomach was so knotted. You knew it was coming.

This is one of those movies that gets better the more you think about it. As you remember how cool this scene and that scene was and how some of the simplest of actions are given so much weight and meaning, you’ll realize you’ve seen a really good movie. There’s lots of symbolism and repeated motifs to pick up so it also stands up well in repeat viewings. I recommend this movie to all my friends. It’s a little hard to describe so I pretty much say “just see it and then we’ll talk about it”.

I’m not a movie critic; I’m just critiquing a movie.

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