Film Review: Drive (2011)

on Wednesday, September 28, 2011
'Drive' (UK Release: 23 Sept '11) // Words: Alicia McBride

'Drive' is continuously being hailed as the "coolest film of the year", an accolade that’s being banded around frequently due to its quotability and universal appeal - who doesn’t like ‘cool’ things? – but for once here’s a film that lives up to its ubiquitous trademark status. It is effortlessly stylish, ultra-violent and soundtracked by synth-heavy electropop from the likes of Kavinsky and Chromatics. Cool barely begins to cover it.

The virtues of this film are strong direction and a narrative that unfolds perfectly. In an age where television and film seem to strive to be as cerebral as possible and success is measured in how confused your audience are post-viewing (see Doctor Who' and 'Inception'), 'Drive' could be called predictable. Once the chain of events is set in motion you know exactly where it’s going, but that’s the beauty of it. You can simply sit back and enjoy the ride. Yes, I went there.

At times the film can feel like a super slick music video, especially certain scenes which almost dispense with dialogue altogether and instead rely on the music and the lingering looks and desire between Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan to do the talking. These moments are particularly emotionally engaging and help to elevate the film beyond simply being about cars and violence. The film is atmospheric and absorbing and despite the seediness of it all you want to be embroiled in their lives. Because it is just so damn cool.

Gosling carries the film with a central performance that’s suitably understated. You sense that until he meets Irene (Mulligan) he’s led a reserved and probably lonely life, which is why making their very human connection ends up having such an impact on both their lives. In a narrative underpinned by crime and violence their relationship transpires as something pure and innocent, at once engaging and endearing.

The supporting roles are also impressively acted, apart perhaps from Mulligan. She doesn’t feel right for the role and it seems that in the end casting an Oscar-winning talent became more important than actual suitability. However, the role of Irene is also woefully underwritten and so Mulligan and the casting team can’t be held fully responsible.

In fact there are only two female characters in the film, both of which are reasonably passive and unimposing - although Christina Hendricks performs wonders with the small amount of material she is given. In an otherwise flawless film, these are minor criticisms.

Few films this year, and possibly next for that matter, will remain as entertaining and memorable as 'Drive'. It is an example of perfect craftsmanship, from the cinematography to the excellent soundtrack which enhances every moment of the film without ever becoming distracting or intrusive.

'Drive' is also further proof that Ryan Gosling is a god among men and that a quiet and contained performance can have as much impact as something far more obvious. Quite simply, it is very, very cool.


'Drive' is out on wide release throughout UK cinemas now.

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