In Review: Drive

By Helen Dines


Anyone expecting a review of the 1996 Marc Dacascos Kung Fu classic might want to click away now. This is a review of the 2011 Gosling vehicle.

Ryan Gosling  plays “Driver” in this retro, genre-bending thriller by director Nicolas Winding Refn.  Driver is a Hollywood stunt driver come mechanic by day, who moonlights as a getaway driver for the thrill of it. And what a thrill.  He may have an icy-cool, calm exterior but you share Driver’s exhilaration in the mesmerising opening sequence as he attempts to out-wit the police during a getaway from a warehouse robbery. You find yourself willing him on as he twists and turns through the backs streets of LA, desperate for him to get out of there a free – and very smart – man.

His two compartmentalised worlds come crashing together when Driver embarks on a tentative romance with his neighbour, Irene (played by Carey Mulligan). It’s this emotional attachment that gets him into trouble when her jailbird husband (Oscar Isaac) later returns from prison. The film then takes the well trodden road of “one last heist gone wrong” but on a thrill ride with added extras, concentrating on the reactions and emotions of Driver and his car-crash life rather than the traditional heist narrative.

The supporting cast (Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks as gangster partners Nino and Bernie, with Bryan Cranston as a washed up stuntman turned small time crook) are superb and Gosling excels as our taciturn protagonist. He barely has a page of dialogue throughout the whole film but communicates all through glances, expression and seething body language. He is the ultimate anti-hero (in a similar vein to Dirty Harry) and you’re rooting for him to succeed and get the girl despite falling into terrifyingly  gleeful bouts of violence and sociopathy.

The accompanying synth sound track enhances the retro 80’s feel as well as intensifying the sense of apprehension. The movie has a purposeful B movie feel which is probably one of the film’s few failings, albeit a minor one. It sometimes feels a bit over stylised and uber-cool for its own good.

Overall though, the finished piece is a gory joyride – a terrifying and exhilarating take on the heist movie. Not quite a classic but pretty close.

Helen has awarded Drive four Torches of Truth

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5 responses to “In Review: Drive

  1. Nice review. Can’t wait to see this film.

  2. Have been seeing the posters and trailers for this film. Was unsure about it, but after reading this, I think I may give it a go.

  3. Watched this film last night, after reading this review. I must say this review is right on the button! Good job keep it up!

  4. Great to see a review of a very masculine film, from a woman’s perspective.

  5. I saw Drive at Cambridge Film Festival last month, but have only now managed to write a review (which is on my Unofficial Cambridge Film Festival blog).

    I agree largely with what Helen has written (and was pleased to be reminded of the music, as a friend knew about its genesis, and is going to get the soundtrack). It is especially true that we want Driver to win through, so it was interesting to find Helen mentioning Dirty Harry, when I have written more, in my review, on the links between Driver and Harry Callahan.

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