Drive review

Banana Rating: 5 out of 5

Can the Oscars give out awards to items of cloth­ing? They should. Because Drive’s satin jacket with a scor­pion on the back would win Best Sup­port­ing Actor.

Also, I doubt many would win a star­ing com­pet­i­tion with Ryan Gos­ling’s name­less get­away driver/stuntman. He stares. A lot.

He stares at Carey Mul­ligan, who can’t really do much but stare back, and make googly, love­sick eyes at him. He stares at the road as he drives, unblink­ing, occa­sion­ally turn­ing his head to stare in a dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tion (prob­ably in the wing mir­ror if per­form­ing an over­tak­ing maneouvre, or over his shoulder if par­al­lel park­ing when vis­it­ing the corner shop for a pint of milk). Wal­ter from Break­ing Bad, kind of his boss (although really, nobody is Gos­ling’s boss in this movie), talks in an anim­ated fash­ion to Gos­ling, whose usual response to the con­ver­sa­tion is to stare at him, or stare at the floor as he drinks cof­fee from a styro­foam cup.

He’ll smile occa­sion­ally, and when he does speak, it might be to ask where to put the gro­cer­ies, or whether you’d like your teeth knock­ing down the back of your throat. He’s a man of gently sim­mer­ing psy­chosis. Much of the fun is derived from simply watch­ing him move; each step, each threat­en­ing point of a fin­ger, is care­fully con­trolled. There might be an explo­sion of viol­ence at the end of it. There might not be. It’s always hard to tell, which adds greatly to the film’s often unpre­dict­able nature.

He’s a char­ac­ter who, if you met him in real life, would weird you out. You’d think, even with his pat­en­ted Hol­ly­wood good looks, “Shit, this guy’s a bit creepy.” And run a mile in the other dir­ec­tion. He’s a char­ac­ter who can only work in a par­tic­u­lar type of highly styl­ized, mannered, ima­gin­ary movie land.

It reminds me a lot of Wal­ter Hill’s The Driver from 1975. That too has a fam­ous Ryan (O’Neal) play­ing an almost word­less get­away driver, a bad guy with a small bit of hero at his centre. Like Gos­ling, he remains name­less. The Driver takes it one step fur­ther, and makes every­one name­less. Drive doesn’t go that far. I think, for good reason. Gos­ling’s driver is a strange, almost inhu­man pres­ence, like a vis­itor from another planet. That he remains unnamed helps sep­ar­ate him from the rest of the named cast. He has a pen­chant for extreme viol­ence, but only seems to use it for good. A good pyscho, then? Thou­sands of action movie her­oes before him have used the same defence.

The Driver is more of a hard boiled thriller than Drive. The former also has the jokey cyn­icism of Bruce Dern’s detect­ive, who pretty much over­shad­ows Ryan O’ Neal through­out. Nobody over­shad­ows Gos­ling (well, maybe the jacket does), des­pite a stel­lar sup­port­ing cast. Even when he’s not around, you feel like he might be watch­ing. Drive is less con­cerned with get­away driv­ing, pre­fer­ring to focus on the bur­geon­ing rela­tion­ship not just with Carey Mul­ligan’s char­ac­ter, but her imme­di­ate fam­ily, includ­ing her hus­band.  It’s slightly bewil­der­ing, and fas­cin­at­ing, the way he attaches him­self to them. Mul­ligan seems to be just as con­fused as the audi­ence, yet can’t help get­ting hooked on the enig­matic loner who lives next door. Even when he dis­plays a darker side, there’s a part of her that still wants to know him.

The film draws from Michael Mann’s dreamy, urban land­scapes for it’s influ­ence. There seems to be a bit of Stan­ley Kubrick in there as well, where some scenes have human extras arranged as if for a pho­to­graph, as still as statues, regard­less of what might be going on around them (there’s prob­ably loads more influ­ences, it’s that kind of film, and prob­ably my fault for not hav­ing seen quite enough older movies to spot them, but hell, I’m work­ing on it). Hon­estly, I haven’t seen such a beau­ti­ful movie in a long time. The car chases are crisply shot, and shun the hyper kin­etic style of Matt Damon going through a gear change from fifty dif­fer­ent angles in a Bourne movie. Nor are we hit with a bar­rage of crash-bang-wallop ala Michael Bay. Gos­ling drives smart, as well as fast.

It’s an almost impossibly cool movie.

Now if you don’t mind, I have a satin jacket I need to go and buy.