Nicholas Winding Refn‘s ultra-cool Drive is finally on Blu-Ray, which means now everyone can enjoy one of the best films of 2011. Ryan Gosling stars as the silent driver with a thing for violence. Refn uses unusual music choices and long, stretched out shots of simple character interaction to help keep the style over substance approach effective. It’s a one of a kind film that somehow got passed over at the Oscar’s, but that doesn’t mean it won’t grow to become one of the most stylistic and cool films of recent years.
Driver (Ryan Gosling) has a very specific set of rules. He gives his clients a window, and as long as the clients follow his time, they’ve got him as their getaway driver. If something doesn’t go down exactly how he says it’s going to go down, then you’re shit out of luck and probably screwed from all angles. Living by these rules means his life is quiet and lacking any real human connection. He works at an auto shop for a man named Shannon (Bryan Cranston), but other than that he’s a drifter.
That is until he falls for Irene (Carey Mulligan). He instantly becomes attracted to her, which makes him break the rules he’s tried so hard to live by. Driver gets mixed up with Irene’s husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) and some mobsters named Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman). Drive quickly becomes a game of kill or be killed as Driver tries to return misplaced money that has fallen into his lap during a sour deal.
Drive in most senses is more traditional than most driving films. It takes you back to the 70’s with its pop soundtrack and steady nighttime camera work. It echoes Steve McQueen and even James Dean in the cool department. Director Nicholas Winding Refn doesn’t bog down the film with too much dialogue or action; instead he evenly paces it out, making the film play as more of a character heavy drama than a fast car chase film. Make no mistake though, Drive does have a few impressive car chases, but they’re more grounded in reality opposed to fast cars and pileups.
Ryan Gosling captures Driver with the right amount of tension. He’s calm and collected one moment and then a complete nutcase the next. He’s sort of always walking a fine line of keeping things at bay, but when things get off centered he becomes a monster that won’t stop until everyone that needs to be dead is dead.
Albert Brooks, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston and even Ron Perlman all give some strong performances. Each character is dramatically different than the next, which helps cover all the bases. Brooks is more of a gangster that’s become more civil, but when pushed into a corner he’ll come out swinging. Mulligan is the equally silent love attraction. Her and Gosling have a very strong connection. It’s in fact so strong that they rarely use many words to convey the power of love. It’s just something that you feel deep down.
Cranston and Perlman have more supportive roles, but both still bring some dynamics to their characters. Cranston’s character is very chatty and always getting into trouble, which is the complete opposite of Gosling’s character. Perlman is just sort of sick of everything, trying to get on top of a world that he’s spent so much time on the bottom of.
Everyone in Drive brings their own unique traits to their roles, which helps spread everything out equally. Not one character is really wasted, which helps the film move along.
I’m still as impressed with the film on Blu-Ray as I was when I first saw it in theaters. It just radiates such a unique feeling of cool. It amplifies it and makes a film out of it. It’s hard to explain, but once you watch it you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the best film of 2011 in my eyes and I’m still scratching my head on the Academy’s decision not to even nominate the film.
Drive was shot digitally and that only makes the 1080p video transfer look all the better. Detail is high and grain is low, making everything rich and full of texture. The opening night scenes aren’t bogged down by added noise and most of the daytime scenes are reference quality. There are occasional moments where detail isn’t as strong as most of the film, but those are very brief and almost unnoticeable. Hats off to Sony for providing yet another new release with a stunning video presentation.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is as important as the video transfer. The film is more talk than action and not one word is lost or hard to hear. The front channels serve as the center of attention for this track, but the back ones open up during the driving sequences and scenes that contain more all-around action. It’s a well-balanced track that slowly unleashes more and more as you watch the film.
The film comes with a few interesting features, but most feel the same as the last. Ryan Gosling is nowhere to be seen and director Nicholas Winding Refn only pops up on one feature that’s more or less dedicated to him. Here’s a full list below.
- I Drive (HD): A brief look at the director, the character of Driver and different story points.
- Under the Hood (HD): A short look at the different characters and the details that really drew the cast to the roles.
- Driver and Irene (HD): A look at the very unique relationship between the films two main characters.
- Cut to the Chase (HD): This clip focuses on the films different approach to basic driving scenes and how Refn wanted something more realistic and smart.
- Drive Without a Driver: Entretien Avec Nicholas Winding Refn (HD): The best piece of bonus content on the disc. This feature is basically the director sharing all of his ideas and visions for the film and how everything came about.
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
- Previews: For other Sony titles.
Seriously, if you haven’t seen Drive yet then stop reading this and go out and buy it already. It’s intelligent and independent filmmaking on the big screen, getting wide release attention. I’m not sure how Refn was able to get FilmDistrict to pick this film up and release it on as many theaters as they did, but damn it I’m glad he did. Drive is such a different movie and it’s because of its unique perspective that it works so well.
The Blu-Ray comes with some nice padded features, but nothing too detailed, besides the Refn feature. An UltraViolet digital copy is included, so now you can watch Drive just about anywhere. I’m sure the film will get a bonus heavy release down the road, but the picture and audio is strong enough to warrant purchasing this release without hesitation.
Nicolas Winding Refn's extremely violent Drive is ultra-cool, expertly shot and a must-own on Blu-Ray.