Film Review - Drive

What's this? Another big hollywood flick about some stone cold badass being a wheelman for anyone with the capital to buy his time, holding a very strict set of rules who then becomes mixed up in some even less savory business? Yawn. What, there's more? The driver is played by pretty-boy Ryan Gosling, a man whose actions outnumber and outweigh his words? Go on. The film is a gritty take on typical driver films, featuring something referred to affectionately by it's fans as "The Elevator Stomp". If you perhaps think this is some odd 80's dance move, you are in for a very rude awakening.

Drive thrusts us the audience into the world of Driver, played by Ryan Gosling, set in Los Angeles. He isn't given a name in the film, which in my opinion neither adds or detracts significantly from the film. The first ten minutes may as well take you hostage as you practically cannot leave your seat; and neither would you want to. Driver is introduced to us driving two crooks with their ill-gotten goods, out-driving and out-thinking the finest LAPD has to offer. Everything about it is meticulously thought out. And that doesn't just apply to Driver's thoughts. The cinematography and sound are beautifully engineered. The director chose to stay away from typical car chases with lots of shaking and aggressive camera usage to accentuate the speed. Instead, the camera stays inside the vehicle at all times, and is by-in-large static. Very much like Driver's expression. Even as he drifts across two lanes of traffic with police in hot pursuit, Driver is calm, cool and collected; no wonder he never gets invited to poker night. Driver and the thieves he is driving for escape smooth and clean, and Driver leaves without a word to his associates.

The sound of this film really makes it, in particular how quiet it is, and how much of the sound is natural sound, and not dialogue. One of my favorite examples of great sound in this film is in the scene previously described is Driver's watch ticking. It's such a small sound, yet at almost every lull in the action it can be heard, whether it's by itself or under the mixture of sounds coming from the car itself. This film did an incredible job of mixing audio that is muffled or drowned out. This can also be seen later in the film when Driver's love interest, Irene throws a party for her husband's return from prison, and the party can be heard through the apartment walls, becoming louder when the apartment door opens and vice-versa.

But it's not always about subtle nuances in sound and film, sometimes the best sequences are when the film diverts your attention one hundred percent to a single action. Oh yes, it's The Elevator Stomp. Where to start with this scene, it's hard to say. Driver has just been involved in a bad heist that, through no fault of his own got Irene's husband Standard killed. Driver realizes that he and Irene are both in danger. He explains what happened, and that she can have the money he made from the heist, only to be cut off with a sharp smack across the face that speaks volumes more than anything she could have said. Just as you're not sure where the interaction is going, the elevator door opens to a man who apologetically says "wrong floor". Irene steps into the elevator, almost in an attempt to get away from Driver who no doubt makes her sick at the moment. Driver follows her into the elevator and notices the man had in fact had exactly the floor he wanted, as he notices a handgun is stashed in the mans inner suit pocket. Driver understands very well what this means, and here's where the scene really picks-up. Driver gentle guides Irene into the corner with his arm before turning around and taking his only shot he has with her. They draw close in a way that makes you wonder if they'll ever even touch, or just share this moment for what seems like forever. Driver kisses Irene and she kisses back in a way that says that she wants more but realizes she shouldn't. Driver pulls away and savors his final moment before he will most definitely push Irene away in a manner more graphic than he ever could have imagined. He slams the gunman's head into the elevator wall to knock him down and proceeds to stomp his face until the job is irrefutably finished; that is to say the gunman's head is no more. We see only the initial stomp and the aftermath, but the sound alone paints a vivid, graphic picture enough. The heavy tones of boot to bone, give way to gruesome, wet slaps, in monument to Driver's commitment. The elevator reaches the garage level just as Driver finishes, only to look up at Irene wistfully as she stands outside the elevator, horrified by his actions. And without a word from either of them, the elevator doors slide across, blocking Driver from Irene in a manner that seems quite definitive, concluded by a hearty thud of the elevator doors closing.

The elevator stomp ties together two very different, yet equally important worlds in the life of Driver. The first being his love interest in Irene, and protecting that, and the second being his misfortune in being wrapped up with the wrong people. They are both tragedies in a sense, but in different ways. The story of Irene and Driver is a tragedy because complications drove them apart, despite obvious attraction and compatibility. Driver defends Irene and Benecio at all costs, yet when he pleads to speak with her she shuts him down coldly, no doubt still traumatized by her time in the elevator. When she realizes that his actions in her defense do not define him, it is too late and he is gone and out of contact. Driver's misfortune is a tragedy in the sense that he got swept up in other people's dreams, because he doesn't seem to have any. He spends a significant amount of the movie trying to dig someone out of a hole, which only digs it deeper and when it finally seems there is no one else left, it's apparent that he himself is the deepest of them all.

Of these two stories it's difficult to pick a favorite. His story with Irene is riveting as we watch this man who is almost inhuman in character grow in leaps and bounds, only to be rejected. But his story of mopping up other people's problems is incredibly entertaining because it shows more of the Driver that we were introduced to in the beginning of the movie who is wildly entertaining to watch.

But saying that one side of Driver is wildly entertaining is redundant, because frankly it's all entertaining. The entire film is a mesmerizing experience. Like I said, this film takes you hostage; you're just along for the ride.