Review: Drive

By: Max Cantlupe Contributing Writer

The movie Drive is about a behind-the-wheel Hollywood stuntman who doubles as a getaway driver at night. The director, Nicolas Winding-Refn hints that Ryan Gosling, the Driver, is a seasoned criminal. Even in an indie film, the life of crime is lonely, unpredictable and seriously dangerous, no matter how tough you are.

Let it be known, if anyone goes to the theater expecting to see an action-packed movie like Iron Man, then Drive will drive you crazy. There are so many scenes without dialogue, without gunshots, without screaming, but with a whole bunch of driving. There are countless scenes of the nameless protagonist driving seemingly aimlessly. But don’t be deterred. This is an unknown director with a low budget, intelligently building up a character for the suspense that drives this film.

If I remember anything from my High School English classes, it is this: watch for foreshadowing. The opening scene shows the Driver in a cheap hotel on the phone. He wears a dirty, white race jacket with a large scorpion on the back. As the camera pans to the left, you can hear him telling an unknown accomplice his rules for the heist. The scene fades into the bird’s-eye view of Los Angeles, the city of dreams, riches and beauty, but also crushed hopes and violence. Whenever the scorpion jacket appears, his darker side emerges.

There is a long list of things I love about this movie, including the soundtrack, the cast, the character development, the brutal action scenes, and the Driver’s romantic fixation on his next-door neighbor. And the heists deserve their own list of highlights.

The movie opens with a chase scene unlike the typical Hollywood scenario in which the racing cars flip, spin and spontaneously explode. But the suspense is every bit as riveting. In most of this chase scene, the speed doesn’t exceed 50 mph. So what makes this a chase scene? The Driver’s intelligence, his shrewd evasion of the cops and an internal GPS answer that question. Only someone who knows the streets and the beats of LA can successfully evade a helicopter and countless police units.

The hopeful love that turns deadly begins with the Driver’s neighbor and her 8-year-old son.  Their first real conversation occurs in the kitchen while he’s getting a glass of water. The Driver’s face appears in the mirror as the camera focuses on the woman. But he sees a picture of an unknown man and her little boy, foreshadowing what will become a chaotic partnership played out among of the characters.

One last mega-heist and its after-effects drive the rest of the movie. The cast terrifically conveys the vibe of a mob film, in which you trust no one and revenge is the only option. The woman washes the Driver’s scorpion jacket, presenting it to him as a gesture of forgiveness. But at night, as he sits alone in his dark apartment, the scorpion inside of him provokes him to another violent episode. You must see this movie to find out if it’s the director’s last.