Cars and violence, what's not to love?
Holy shit! I have a review out that’s not 3 weeks after the release date! And now that we’re over that, let’s talk about Drive.
You’d think a film called Drive - which focuses on a stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver, on the run from the mob after a heist gone wrong and out for revenge on those responsible - would be full of action, car chases and a pounding soundtrack that sets out to abuse your senses in the same way a drunk hillbilly beats up his wife. But you couldn’t be further from the truth, and thank fuck for that because it shows that you can actually make a standard genre movie compelling, visually complex, and absolutely beautiful without resorting to the plot hole mind fuck stories like Inception.
Yup...I can predict that you needed a plane so I bought an airline for you...
Drive is a simple film, where less is more, and subtlety is king. It’s a very standard Noir Thriller with a simple story, but Nicolas Winding Refn (most known for Bronson) picked up the Best Director award at Cannes this year for this film, and you don’t get that just for making your standard run of the mill genre film otherwise, heaven forbid, Michael Bay would win the Palme D’Or. And if that happened, I would lose my faith in humanity and smear my rancid shit on the walls of a children’s hospital or something.
What Refn has done is to make a film that is rich and textured visually, audibly and most importantly, thematically. It all seems very 80’s but it is clearly set in the present day. There’s all the tacky neon you could want and even the soundtrack beats that 80’s synth pop we all know and love. Even down to the detail of the pink italicised paintbrush type in the credits. It’s got the aesthetic as if they had actually filmed Grand Theft Auto: Vice City without the 80’s campness. But through all of the visual and audible stylisation, it is the themes and character that stand out and the simplicity of the story has allowed Refn to focus thoroughly on it and create this award winning vision.
That’s not to say this film is without it’s flaws though, there are a couple of gaping plot holes and sometimes Carey Mulligan’s Irene seems a little too helpless. There are clichés and the beginning all seems a bit too saccharine sweet for the kind of Jeckyll and Hyde theme that resonates throughout the film. But these flaws are completely overwhelmed by the intricacy with which this film has been crafted.
However, there is a rather colossal flaw, which I don’t really seem to understand, and that’s the UK age certificate. The film’s been given an 18 rating, which is pretty much a commercial death sentence in this country. With the attendance for 18 rated films at an all time low, all the studios are out to trivialise their violent content into cartoonish drivel so that they get certified 15. This is partly to blame for the desensitisation of our youth, but also means films like Drive won’t get to a larger audience in the cinema because the violence here is too ‘real’. But in the US, this film has a RESTRICTED rating. Which means anyone under 17 can go as long as they are with an adult over 18. This rating is MORE SENSIBLE because not only do the studios get the sales of the tickets, the parents can decide if their 15 or 16 year old kids are fit to see the film themselves. But oh no, we wouldn’t want parents to feel responsible for the little shits they spawn would we? We’d rather just park them in front of the TV and let that raise them instead.
After watching Tellietubbies, junior picked up a hammer and bashed is family's skulls in because they wouldn't make him tubbie toast...
Anyway, I digress…
Drive, above all else, is a Jeckyll and Hyde film. The unnamed driver (played magnificently by Ryan Gosling) is a seemingly kind a gentle person, but just under the surface lays a savage beast that really doesn’t take a lot of coaxing to come out to the fore. This is also reflected in the city of LA. It is saturated, colourful, bright and pretty to look at, but just below the surface is a criminal underbelly with gangs and mobs willing to screw each other over for money. Maybe even, we can see a little bit of the unnamed driver in ourselves. We all pretend to be nice, but actually, maybe we all just want to gouge each others eyes out with the nearest piece of cutlery.
OH NO, THERE IS A FORK IN MY EYE!
This is what Film Noir should be doing. It reflects the darker side of humanity by showing an audience the protagonists relationship with the city in which they dwell, and their natures very frequently fit hand in hand. This is what makes Drive a true Noir film, and what makes it a bloody fantastic one. The violence is visceral, the driving sequences have made driving sequences exciting again (the opening is one of the most intense things I have ever seen), and just about everything in this film is sublime. Go and watch it, thank me later.
And if that didn't persuade you, perhaps a picture of Bill Murray might.