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Film Review: Drive

09/23/2011 11:56AM ● Published by Wendy Sipple

Ryan Gosling stars as the title character who does not have a name in the movie but is only called the Driver. The Driver works for movies in Hollywood and thugs looking for a getaway on the side, his full time job is a mechanic. Irene, played by Carey Mulligan, is the Driver’s next door neighbor. The two make a connection but the only trouble is she has a young son and a jailbird husband who is newly released from prison. While in prison, the husband gets in debt to some criminals who threaten his family if he doesn’t agree to pull a crime off for them. The Driver becomes involved and agrees to help him to keep Irene and her son safe. Unfortunately the heist does not go over well and the Driver must figure out how to keep Irene safe while he attempts to set things right.

Critics have been falling over themselves to claim how great Drive is. Personally I think they are doing the audience and the film a disservice. Drive is not marketed honestly. It pretends to be an action film. While there are elements of action within it, Drive is certainly not an action film. In fact Drive is a foreign arthouse film to be perfectly honest with you. So those expecting a good American action film with a ton of car chases, explosions, and stunts will be mightily disappointed.

Nicolas Winding Refn, a Danish filmmaker, directed Drive and like a lot of foreign filmmakers his direction has a unique sensibility to it that is different than American filmmaking. The dialog between the characters is minimalistic and includes a lot of long awkward silences. The editing style also tends to leave long shots instead of editing at a constant pace. Audiences that are not used to this style will be taken back by it. In fact the audience in the theater of the showing I saw often started laughing during the long periods of silence in the movie.

In addition Refn adds in shocking moments of extreme violence. When I say shocking, I mean graphic shots of a man stomping another man’s face to mush, literally. The out of nowhere aggression and violence also received laughs from the audience.

The acting in the movie was fine. The cast is comprised of great quality actors, but I did not feel the movie gave them much to do. Especially Gosling who was reduced to vacant stares for the majority of the movie. He did the stares as well as an actor could, but in the end his performance was restricted.

I could appreciate the slow pace of the film and actually thought the movie was quite interesting, especially the opening getaway scene. The cinematography by Newton Thomas Siegal was terrific. It was definitely his finest work in a career mainly filled by big budgeted action movies. The composition of the angles and the lighting were top notch.

Ultimately the filmmakers did a great job of making an arthouse movie that won’t appeal to a large audience. It certainly won’t appeal to the demographic that the advertising is marketing to. If you like slow paced insightful films and are not squeamish about extreme violence you will enjoy this film. If you are looking for a movie in the vein of the Transporter series or the Fast and the Furious, you will be sorely disappointed. Drive is a well made movie that I predict most people won’t like and appreciate.

Films like Drive – Pusher, A History of Violence and Bronson    


Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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