Drive Movie Review by Anwar Abdul-Qawi

“If I drive for you, you get your money. That's a guarantee. You tell me where we start, where we're goin', where we goin' afterwards, I give you five minutes when we get there. Anything happens in that five minutes then I'm yours, no matter what. Anything a minute either side of that and you're on your own. I don't sit in while you're running it down. I don't carry a gun. I drive.”  - Driver

Drive is a movie different from what we’ve seen in awhile. It’s style, the music, the vibe, just the whole feel around this film opens your mind, and put’s you in a rare world full of surprises.

  In the opening first scene, the viewer hit hard with Driver’s (Ryan Gosling) first words. We are given a glimpse of this odd character, and with no emotion to go off of, the only thing the viewer is forced to hold on to, is the meanings behind his words, as he talks on the phone running down his code, “I drive.”

Be warned if you go into this movie expected your regular “The Transporter”, type feel, you will be wrong. Drive more of an art apposed to just a straight up film. Different aspects of the film such as lighting, dialogue, setting, and the big question, “Why this day?” Meaning why should we care about this character? What makes this driver such an important aspect of the film that the viewer should pay attention to him? These are all questions that the director Nicolas Winding Refn was ready to answer.

  At the beginning the viewer is shown “the driver” standing in a room on a cell phone. He isn’t having a conversation with the person on the other end, he is more so telling his business, and what he will and will not do. He is not up for negotiation. This means that whoever is on the other end of the phone has to accept the meaning of the words, “I drive.”

  So without spoiling too much of this great film, Ryan Gosling plays the nameless character known as “Driver”, or at times “the Kid.” He is a loner, and the viewer isn’t given much detail of his past, meaning that the viewer doesn’t know what he is capable of. What we are given the impression of at first is that he is a serious, quite character who is experienced at driving. By day he is a stunt driver for movies, and by night he is helping criminals make clean getaways from the police. A kind of character who we can’t judge as a good, or bad guy at first hand.

So we are introduced to other important characters like his boss at a garage named Shannon, but the main characters that result in “Driver” showing his true colors, is a mother named Irene, and her child Benicio. We find out that the father is in jail, and that she is basically alone. So again without giving too much, it is obvious to see that,”Driver” starts to hang around the family, and become close to them growing a relationship with them.

  The story then takes a major turn for,”Driver,” when he finds out that the husband is on his way back from prison. The husband gets into a money problem, and,”Driver,” decides to help out, (since he has experience in that field.” Of course the job goes horribly wrong, and now, “Driver,” is forced to the edge and has to fight back to protect Irene, her child, and himself from the threat that faces them.

  The whole theme, the entire feel you get out of;”Drive” has an insane retro vibe to it, from the amazing choices in music, to the mysterious scorpion jacket the main character wears throughout the film. Visually the film is beautiful after the first sequence with him escaping the cops, the opening credits were amazing to look at. The song used in the opening credits was, “Nightcall” by Kavinsky, and what is really interesting about this song, is that throughout it there is a certain line that relates to the main character. “There is something inside you, it’s hard to explain, they’re talking about you boy, but you’re still the same.”

Hearing this song as you watch an expressionless Ryan Gosling drive around a nightlife city of California really puts you in the mood. But it makes me think that there might be something odd, or wrong with this character. Since like in the song, there is something about that is hard to explain. Meaning that when we finish the movie we will find that the characters that interact with him have an odd relationship with him, because of the way he acts. And maybe the viewer still won’t understand him, and we will be, “talking about him, but he is still the same.”  In that montage sequence when he enters his apartment the music fades down, and you see,” Driver” just staring into his room, and in perfect sync with the music he turns around, and turns out the light, and it jumps back to him being in the car driving around. That small scene was mind-blowing, just how they were able to have the click of the light switch sync with the single beat that restarted the song.

  That scene made me realize something really important about the character. The most important relationship isn’t him with the family, or with his boss, the most important relationship is with him and driving in general. I went into the movie expecting over the top car chases, and etc. But you will see that the movie isn’t called,” Drive,” because it’s about car chasing and action. It is his life, and the only thing he can hold on to. He drives as a stuntman, he drives as a getaway driver, he drives to think about his problems, or to forget them, and he drives to just think in general, and lastly for happiness.

  The opening credits clearly show that he is driving around but never show you where he goes, they just show his face, and give you the impression that he is in deep thought. Later we see him a stunt man, but when he meets the family there is another amazing sequence, where he decides to drive them home because of their car problems. The reason why this scene is very important is because it shows him laughing, and smiling which is rare for his character. The song that plays as they drive to a river is “ A Real Hero,” by Electric Youth, College. In the song it is repeated, “A real hero, a real human being,” showing that this is what this character wants to be, this is what’s making him happy. He wants to be a hero and help this family, and he feels like a real person when he is around them.

Lastly on the topic of music there is another sequence that is really interesting. It occurs after,” Driver,” is informed about the husband, named,” Standard” is on his way back. Meaning that the main character could lose that one thing that makes him feels like a “real human being.” So there is a welcoming back party for him, and the song that is playing is,” Under Your Spell” by Desire. And as the song plays it shows the main character in the dark working on something, but he seems to be troubled, and can’t really focus. And as the song plays it cuts to the party and Irene looking at her husband, and then cuts back to Driver. And in this sequence the song repeats the lines, “I don’t eat, I don’t sleep, I do nothing but think of you.” This was another amazing scene because we know that Irene is starting to become torn between the two so when it jumps back at forth at both men, it shows what’s going on in her mind with anyone, or without her saying it. Also the same for Driver. We are used to seeing his character acting as if he doesn’t care about anything, but we see him now struggling to focus, so he leaves. When he does he sees Irene sitting in the hallway, and the music is muffled which is really cool. Because they were able to kill two birds with one stone using this song. They used it just as music for the scene, but then showed the viewer that the party is actually playing this song, and the characters themselves can hear, it and hear the words. After that there is a scene that occurs that I will go over later, but after it occurs, we see him in his car driving, without us knowing his destination. He is driving to because it helps him cope with his problems.

  I said it before, but the music in this film is perfect, and if not it is fairly close to being it. It does not jam popular world songs that people recognize down your throat, it gives you music that normally you wouldn’t listen to, but makes it fit. As far as dialogue all of the characters have really interesting lines, but there are high chances that the Driver’s dialogue is the most interesting. His character speaks very little, so it is a shock when he does explode in rage. To some this may seem awkward to some people, when he gives a short response to a long question. Also another thing that adds to his character is his pauses in conversation. This may turn you off depending on how you feel, but personally I enjoyed it. It was different, and really experienced his character.

One of my favorite scenes that had great dialogue that somewhat frightened me was when the husband, firsts meet driver.

[Standard comes out of the apartment with Benicio as Driver is talking to Irene]
 How you doin'?
 This guy's been tellin' me a lot about you. Says you've been uh...comin' around, helpin' out a lot. Yeah, helpin' out? Is that right?
[Driver doesn't reply but smiles]
 Is that right?
 Oh, that's very nice. That's nice of you, thank you.
 You're welcome.
 You drive for the movies?
[referring to the garbage bag he's carrying]
 I can take that.
Standard: No. No. I go it.
[to Benicio]
 Let mommy talk to her friend.

This scene was very tense. The tone in Standard’s voice was scary, and violent and gave the viewer the feeling that a fight was going to break out. I enjoyed Driver’s character a lot during this scene because he didn’t seem scared; it was hard to read his emotions. It was clear to see that Irene was in fear that a fight would break out. Standard seemed to be bothered, and was probably expecting Driver to respond in away that a fight would start. But the way he responded didn’t give anything for Standard to take in. He could not read driver, so he didn’t know what kind of person he was.

  There are times where driver is quite, but he has his moments when his character is really troubled, his character is frightening to look at.

In one scene he is a café and man walks up to him talking about pulling a job with him. And instead of giving a short answer, like,”yes, maybe, sure” he took control of the conversation. In the previous example we see driver was not in control on the conversation with Standard he was playing defense. It occurs when he is serious, or angered when he quickly takes control of the conversation. So when the man asked him for another heist, driver responded,

 “How about this? Shut your mouth, or I'll kick your teeth down your throat and I'll shut it for you.”

  It is amazing how this character can catch you off guard. We do not know anything about him, we don’t know about the things he has done, or been exposed to. So when see a soft spoken, quite guy we expect him to hold that character, but when he erupts, its scary because when he said that line above to the man, he wasn’t screaming or yelling. He said it calm, but sharp voice that gave you the impression that he was going to do it, and also another great thing with that, when the man left, driver’s eyes stayed on him until he left. 

  But lastly as far dialogue, one of the best from driver is towards the end. It is when Shannon tells the thugs about Irene, and it is the first time we see and hear driver curse, and yell.

 [Driver meets Shannon after he's killed one of Nino's thugs in front of Irene]

Driver: They came to my apartment, Shannon. How did they know where I live?
 I told you, I was gonna call Bernie. I just wanted him to know that...that it wasn't about that you're not interested in the money. That just did it for the girl.
[suddenly Driver grabs Shannon by the throat in anger]
 Calm down!
 You told them about Irene?
 Calm down, kid! That's it! Just calm down!
 You told them about Irene?
 I just...I just wanted him to know, that as soon as you return the money, that was the end of it. That's all! I didn't know! How was I supposed to know? How was I supposed to know that? Okay? Look, let me just...let me just talk to Bernie, okay?
 Why you gotta fuck everything up, Shannon? Huh? Why do you fuck everything up? Get the fuck out of here, and never come back.

  This scene was very impactful because this is the first time we see driver falling apart, throughout the film he does kill, but he always seems to remain calm, but here, he yells,” YOU TOLD THEM ABOUT IRENE”. It was unexpected and I had to see if it was actually him speaking but I was expecting him to curse, and yell he way he did.

  Visually the movie is wonderful, from the amazing camera angles to, insane lighting effects, this movie has it all. A great component this movie does extremely well is getting really great angles. Since a lot of the time we are in the car, they make great use of the rear view mirror. So when we do not see driver’s face, we can see his eyes, and what they are doing. A really great shot as far as camera was when he decided to give the family a ride. When he asked if they wanted to see something cool. The camera was in a position so that driver was in the shot, and Irene was in the shot. But Benicio wasn’t, but because of the rear view mirror that was in the shot we could see his head. So instead of the camera changing to his face, when Irene asked if the wanted to see something cool, we could see his head nod yes in the mirror. It was an amazing shot.

  As far as lighting on of the best scenes in the film was the elevator. When he gets into a fight in front of Irene. When he senses danger he kisses her and as they kiss, the lighting starts to dim down, and the soft music starts to play that normally plays when he is with her, but the music starts to get violent and the light comes back on, and he quickly snaps and attacks. This scene was beautiful. The editing was very well done. What they decided to show, the different angles given. Mostly it shines in the car. They did a great job giving you the fell that you are in the car with driver.  

  The set up was great as well they took you to very distinct places, which was very interesting. Normally in driving movies you are distracted by random people walking by, or certain structures. In Drive, I found myself glued on the main characters, and the locations. From the elevator, to a pizzeria, even to the outback of California.

  None of the characters seem to have a good relationship with another. The two villains, or bad guys, aren’t always on the same page. One thinks he is bigger than he actually is, the other, is just trying to clean up a mess made by the other. Irene and her husband being in jail must have caused major problems. Driver and Shannon not being able to keep his mouth shut, and many more.

Lastly I would like to go over Drivers character, and one of the biggest props in the film, his scorpion jacket. Towards the end of the film when he is having a conversation with the final villain, the villain says, “Do you know the story of the scorpion and the frog?” and that’s it. He doesn’t go into detail with it. But if you know the story with it being about a scorpion that wants to cross the river on the back of the frog, and the frog says no because he doesn’t want to get stung, and finally the frog lets him ride. Then halfway through the frog gets stung, and he asks why now we both are going to die, and the scorpion replies it’s in my nature. This explains the main character perfectly. His jacket incorporates a lot of the different aspects of the film, music, camera angles, lighting, and special effects. The reason why is because Ryan Gosling’s character wants to help out, he wants to be a real hero, meaning he wants to be a real human being. But it is in his nature to mess everything up. So just like it is in the nature for the scorpion to sting, it is in his nature to ruin things. The jacket incorporates music because it was used in the opening credits to for shadow certain events. The camera only showed him walking but focused on the scorpion and focused on Irene walking by him. Showing that he was going to meet her soon and hurt her. Every time he does something bad, or misses up it shows his scorpion on his jacket. So the first time this occurs is in the opening scene to for shadow the up coming events. The second time is when pulls of the job with Standard and it goes wrong. And he calls Irene to tell her the news.  But when he does that the camera focuses on his back as he tries to call her. So he tries to help out with the heist, and it goes wrong resulting in the husband’s death, making things worse. So he wants to call Irene to help out more, but she doesn’t answer, then later he kills two people trying to kill him. And gets stained with their blood on his jacket. So he know he has the blood on his victims that he has stung on his jacket. Next he goes to find someone who was responsible and attacks him, but before he does the camera shows his scorpion and then shows him attacking the man. Next the elevator scene used amazing lighting for this scene. Once again driver wants to set things straight and help but as they get on the elevator with this mysterious man, driver knows that he can’t have what he wants, to he kisses Irene, and then stomps the man’s head in getting blood all over his jacket, and as the Irene steps out and watches drivers scorpion unleashed the camera shows his scorpion and shows his heavy breathing making the scorpion move. 

  So basically driver is a dangerous person, he wants to be with someone but he fears that he is too dangerous to be around others. And even though he wants to hide his stinger from Irene, and show that he can be a real human being, in the end it turns out that he is just an animal, a scorpion and leaves a trail of destruction in his path.

  In the end of the film, it is amazing without spoiling anything it is amazing how the elevator plays a big character. It is important at the beginning of driver and Irene’s relationship, and the end to it, and it is amazing to see how when the film ends it starts over from the beginning. I am not going to say anymore on that topic. But when you watch it you will understand the meaning behind it. Even thought this film has to set of storylines, one being focused on the threat, and driving, and the other being Irene. I think that both fall short without each other. None of them are that great to stand-alone. It is only together to see that it is amazing how this film can balance out two plots.

  I give Drive a 9.5 /10 this is a film that has been looked down, and underrated. Do not go into this film expecting the cliché of other driving movies, this movie, is more of an art. With a great cast, amazing music, lighting, special effects, it has everything. Although some seems may seem slow or odd to some, I loved the film. It shows you that a simple action such as driving can be a lot more to someone else. Many people do different things on their free time, whether it’s a movie, a bike ride, anything. This movie isn’t about his skills at driving, or about his fighting methods. It is about showing you that when he says he drives, that’s all he does. And that no matter what relationship he has that gets broken or taken away, in the end, the only relationship he will always be able to keep, is with his driving.

 “There is something inside you, it’s hard to explain, they’re talking about you boy, but you’re still the same.”