Get out your driving gloves and get behind the wheel of your fancy car, we're reviewing Drive!
Our hero, a driver named Driver(Ryan Gosling built like a brick wall) is a quiet yet badass stunt driver who takes on the occasional dirty little side job for some quick cash. He has rules that he doesn't break and he makes a good living doing so. Enter his neighbor the also quiet yet cute Irene(Carey Mulligan) who smittens him like a school boy. When her husband comes home, Driver finds he has to break those rules. He gets into trouble with a couple of gangsters(Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks) and artsy shit really hits the fan.
If this movie has one thing in spades, it's style. From the neon pink script to the amazing soundtrack to the cool atmosphere of a midnight drive; Drive is a pleasure for the senses. It feels like an artful 80's style neo-noir. If that sounds like a good movie to you, you may very well enjoy it. I love the atmosphere it creates; the sunny summer days and the cool dewey nights. And the cinematography couldn't make me gittier. It's so slow and meaningful you can see the storyboards in motion. They even know how to do slow-motion sequences properly(lookin' at you Snyder.)And there in lies the octopus in the room.
This movie is slooooooooooooooooow. Even by slow meaningful noir artsy movie standards this movie is slow. This is a three hour movie in an hour and a half. 95% of the shots are a slow pan, and each character takes a full minute before saying anything, which makes it especially jarring near the middle of the movie when the action starts up. Maybe it was just that I saw this with friends and we were in full-on riffing mode, but it felt like Mass Effect or Heavy Rain when the character is paused waiting for you to pick a dialogue option. We could see the dialogue bubbles floating around Ryan Gosling's head before we picked the 'continue to stare blankly' option.
There's no narration, Gosling says barely two words, and there's hardly any dialogue at all. And I love that. You'd think it was a Pixar movie! I love that the movie relies on the character's actions and reactions rather than his dialogue to show what kind of person he is, what he's thinking, and what he's about to do next. When Gosling is sitting in the car staring out the window waiting for his pal to come out and his gloved fingers tense up, you know he's anxious and wondering if he should wait one more second or just jet off. But at the same time, every character does this all the time. It's like watching statues watch paint dry. "Hey, what are you doing Saturday? (5 min. pause) I was thinking we could get together and stare at each other."
There are slow moments I like. Especially in the beginning, with a very tense and subtle getaway as Driver drives off driveways away from the cops (He has a lot of drive is what I'm saying). An over saturated Zack Snyder movie, this is not. But everything just takes so damn long and it slows the pacing down to a standstill that it drives(see what I did there) the movie from artsy to pretentious. I can see why critics love it, but it just feels like it's full of itself. Make no mistake, I do want to see it again just to study the shots and Mes en sine, but it's just soooo daaammn sloooow.
Story-wise, it feels like your typical noir, with a thuggish character who's not all bad but not all good either, struggling to keep his morality above water. The story starts off strong, but then feels like gets derailed(not in the good way) and there are a few things that happen not for any reason but just to be artsy for the sake of artsy. Driver breaks into a ladies changing room for a stripped club, and instead of running off or quickly covering up, the ladies all just sort of sit there topless as the camera pans in slowly and Gosling does his thing. Sure, it looks like a painting, but why?
I can finally forgive Ryan Gosling for The Notebook, because here he fills the quiet-awkward-badass role perfectly. His words reveal he's terrible at talking. His actions reveal he knows how to take care of business, and not afraid to break a few EVERYTHINGS to do so. Christina Hendricks is here, and she does her job adequately, but I wanted her to have a bigger part. Bryan Cranston, who I've heard good things about from the show Breaking Bad, acts the hell out of his part. I can really believe that he has big plans but at the same time messes everything up.
I have to give props to the soundtrack because it's just pretty damn amazing. You'll be wanting to pick it up five minutes into the movie. To tell you how good the soundtrack is, I live in the middle of nowhere, and while writing this review, I heard someone just drive by blaring one of their title songs. Also, this is probably the first movie I've seen that has an exposition soundtrack and not in a funny ironic way. No seriously, the songs will tell you EXACTLY what is going on or what the character is feeling. It's honestly...it's great. I can't even hide how much I love it. I think it goes with that bright glittery 80's style.
The action(when the movie finally gets around to it) is brutal and satisfying. Very explicitly gory. It's weird even after all the slowness. I both like and dislike how jarring it is when the camera finally quick zooms in and we get some fast paced action. The driving is pretty solid entertainment. It's not over the top Fast Five videogame ridiculousness, but it's solid action. I can see what they were trying to do with the ending(it's a tragic kind of movie) but the way they have it end doesn't really make sense in the context, and it loses that tragic feel.
THE GOOD: Amazing cinematography, great soundtrack, Ryan Gosling is a badass, some great silent moments, tense driving moments, brutally badass moments.
THE BAD: SOOOOOOOO SLOOOOOOW to the point of being full of itself. The ending doesn't makes sense.
OVERALL: I...I don't know man. It is a great movie, and I will see it again and download the soundtrack, but it's almost a chore to get through. I'd enjoy it more if it wasn't so full of itself. I wanted this to be the movie of the year and it just wasn't. It's artsy style that makes it great also brings it down. I'm not saying it's not worth a viewing, just know what you're getting into before hand.
ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: SORT OF A SPOILER KINDA Ok, after the shit has pretty well hit the fan, Ryan has to take out a gangster. So he uses this prosthetic mask from his stunt movies and walks up to the glass door of a restaurant where there's a costume party(at night) in which the gangster is attending. it's a really beautiful scene with everything set up just right, with the perfect amount of slow-mo and a nice sweeping soundtrack.
Now, you'd think since he's wearing the mask and no one can recognize him, he'd just go in and fuck the gangster up, but no. He sits in his car, mask still on, and waits for the gangster to come out and drive him off the road. There's no possible way they'd be able to see him in his car at night, so really, what the hell was the whole point of putting the mask on in the first place? That, in a nutshell, is Drive.