Drive is film based on a book by James Sallis. It follows a part time stunt driver, part time mechanic who in his spare time also moonlights as getaway man for hire. His name is simply Driver and he is played by Ryan Gosling. There is no back story for the mysterious man, other than what we hear from his friend and garage owner Shannon (Bryan Cranston), and all we really hear is that he turned up a number of years ago looking for a job.
When it comes to his criminal activities Driver is a stubborn, direct and hard talking man; he only wants to know where the job is, where it finishes, and he does not follow a specified route. He does not fight, carry guns, and you have five minutes to be in and out, any second longer than that and he is out of there.
Close to the beginning of the film we see Driver showcase his skills, managing to evade numerous cop cars as well as a helicopter after an imperfect robbery. This first showing illustrates the characters coolness, calmness and intelligence under pressure and gives you a real sense of his ability. He is brutal, and a master at becoming uncatchable.
The love interest is introduced earlier on. Her name is Irene, played by Carey Mulligan, and quickly we observe how Driver’s feelings for Irene and her son grow. When Irene’s husband, Standard Guzman (Oscar Isaac), returns from jail, it turns out that he is indebted to a gang lord called Chris Cook (James Biberi), for whom he owes protection money to.
When Standard initially refuses to carry out a pawn shop heist, things turn ugly and threats are made to his suffering family. It is Driver’s affection towards Standard’s family, which entices him to make a suggestion; to carry out the heist with Driver acting as the getaway man. Standard introduces Driver to Chris, and the plan is put into action for a $40,000 robbery, where all the money will go to Chris after Standard’s debt is taken into account. Driver’s only motivation is to stop any harm coming to the two people he cares most about. Of course, things don’t go as planned and it is here that the film gets really interesting.
Drive is best described as a fusion between Quentin Tarantino and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The credits look like they have been taken straight from the game, along with a lot of the mood. Certain shots are reminiscent of Death Proof, while the lead character himself portrays the sense of being a loner, very similar to how Stuntman Mike does in Death Proof.
The only difference being that Driver does not seem to be a loner out of choice, but out of necessity. He has a loving and caring side which he manages to hide well. This showing through when his heart becomes open to Irene and her son. I would even go so far as to say that more than anything else he seems to be emotionally vulnerable and insecure. This tender side is also in contrast to a truly ruthless side of his persona, where killing can become second nature (in the most grisly ways) and his violent tendencies show to be as honed as his driving skills.
The musical accompaniment, which is synth based and has an unrelenting quality, is instantly engrossing. It is not simply brilliant driving music, but also music that promptly puts you in the world of 1980′s LA, and sets the tone for the film. One song in particular both opens and closes the film, and it embraces the sentiment that this character is someone that drifts through life as an outsider, and is destined to exist in a state of detachment and loneliness.
Ryan Gosling is quickly becoming a favourite of mine at the Cannes Film Festival. Last year he turned in a stellar performance in the wonderful Blue Valentine and this year he does it again for Drive. What Nicolas Winding Refn has brought is a retro, action packed, dramatic gem. Whether Drive has much chance of winning the festival is arguable, indeed I believe that accolade should belong to The Artist (although I have a horrible feeling it might be granted to The Tree of Life).
Drive is not intellectual, and it does not try to give a virtuous message of profanity. What it does succeed in, is giving a cinematic enjoyment which has you rooting for the strong main character, feeling touched by the romance he shares with Irene, and both wincing and guiltily laughing at much of the violence.
My PS2 might be getting dust down and revved up, because I feel a game of Driver coming on!