Drive … slowly.

Drive … slowly.

Worth It
Feb 14, 2012
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When Drive premiered at this past TIFF, visit this I heard two types of responses. The first (from critics) was, pancreatitis “Brilliant!”. The second (from everyday people) was, rx “Boring!”. So, I’ve been eager to see why this film is so polarizing. Since it just hit VOD and DVD, I decided to cruise on over to my lazy-boy and take Drive for a spin.

Drive centres on a stunt-driver by day and getaway-driver by night. The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is quiet, disciplined and alone. He becomes enamoured with his neighbour, Irene. She has a young son but explains that his father is in prison and getting out shortly. Meanwhile, The Driver himself flirts with danger and the law, driving bad guys to and from a host of heists. Eventually, his activity with the mob catches up with him and he becomes embroiled in an increasingly violent and hopeless scenario.

Within the first 10 minutes of viewing I began to understand why audiences are divided. On the surface, this film seems like it will be a fast-paced, action-packed car flick, à la The Fast and The Furious. But instead Drive is a brooding, hypnotic art house film. The first half has literally one action sequence at the very beginning. And even that is shot with a style that is more dramatic than thrilling, giving us a foundational understanding of the Driver (Ryan Gosling). Scandinavian director, Nicolas Winding Refn, definitely keeps the film focused on its characters and not their cars. But even the character development unfurls with unusual style. For example, dialogue between Gosling and his love interest (Carey Mulligan) is sometimes painfully slow and awkward. Long pauses, extended staring sessions are, at first, frustrating. But as the relationships are carved out and the characters realized, this unhurried approach actually works. It leaves the audience with a constant sense of some impending doom. There’s no doubt, you’re expecting something bad to happen. And midway through the film something bad does, indeed, happen.

A heist goes horribly wrong and from that point on the story motors ahead at a steady and compelling pace. This botched robbery threatens the few relationships that the Driver has. He moves quickly to understand what’s really happening and to gain control of what little he can. No doubt, the second half of Drive is truly exciting, thoughtful and memorable. As for the whole film, the directing style certainly takes some getting used to. Refn is a Danish filmmaker and he doesn’t think twice about it just because he’s filming a movie in L.A., the home of Hollywood. I can see how some viewers would be turned off before they get to the pay off. As for me, I found Drive to be refreshing, mesmerizing and smart. The characters were layered, interesting and free of clichés. Even the mob bosses, one of the most common stereotypes in cinema, were different enough to be truly compelling. And Gosling is brilliant as he’s crafted a rare hero archetype; good-hearted, gifted and unapologetically principled.

I will insert two tiny beefs of mine here. One, the title sequence uses the mistral font in neon pink. I believe mistral (along with papyrus) should be outlawed. No one in design should be allowed to use the mistral font! I know some of you may think I’m overreacting or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about. But it’s a deep-seated pet-peeve of mine. MISTRAL is the most hideous font ever created. There…I said it. I feel better. Two, the ending, which is growing on me as I think about it more, was initially a bit of a letdown. I’d be interested in knowing what others thought of the very end. Feel free to make your comments known down below.

Overall, Drive is a stylish, character-driven drama that simmers with a quiet intensity. And it has some pretty cool car chases, to boot. If you go into it understanding that, then you’ll likely be as surprisingly pleased as I was. Remember, good things come to those who wait, so don’t be impatient if Drive doesn’t move as fast and as furious as you’d like. It’s worth it.

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Craig the Critic

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