TIFF Review: Drive
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
I have seen Drive twice now, in two very different venues. The first time I saw it was at the Toronto International Film Festival. There, the venue was sold out and the audience was held in rapt attention, watching the events of the film unfold in silence. The second time I saw Drive(which was just released theatrically) was in my local cineplex. Here the theater was mostly empty, and the handful of other patrons present were completely disinterested in the film, talking loudly throughout, laughing at very much not funny sequences and just generally making their dislike of the film clearly evident.
I hate to defend anyone who does not abide by the accepted rules of movie theater etiquette, but in this case it was not entirely their fault. Drive has been marketed as some kind of high-adrenaline action movie, the kind with lots of car chases and shootouts and so forth. This is NOT the case.
Drive is more of a slow burn, without all that much action to speak of. There are a couple car chases, but they are more realistic than your average movie car chase sequence, and feel more tense than exciting. I consider that a compliment, but others might not. The violence is fast, intense and brutal, but brief. Those who are familiar with the films of Nicolas Winding Refn will know what to expect.
But despite its brutality, this isn’t a film defined by its violence. Its a character study of a broad array of fascinating characters, not the least of which is the unnamed protagonist, whose background we can only guess at. But we know he’s a pretty good guy, most of the time. Bryan Cranston’s Shannon has an interesting rapport with Driver, seemingly occupying both the ‘mentor’ and ‘protege’ positions, and Cranston is(as usual) excellent in the role, pulling off being both detestable and eminently likable. Carey Mulligan is heartbreakingly sweet and vulnerable as Irene, and we can hardly blame Driver for wanting to look out for her. Ron Perlman and a decidedly unfunny Albert Brooks play a couple of mid-level gangsters with a fascinating relationship of their own.
Visually, the 80′s aesthetic is unmistakable. From the Risky Business font to the generous splashes of pink and white, this film is the stylistic lovechild of a John Hughes teen dramedy and A Clockwork Orange(or as Ryan Gosling put it: “Pretty in Pink with a head-smash”). The sound has a similar period flare, alternating between a heavy and driving synth-bass score and 80′s-style ballads.
But for all its stylistic influences, this is very much a modern movie, perfectly tailored as an art-house action movie for lovers of film. Just don’t go in expecting Transformers 3.