Drive.

06Oct11

Drive is an amazing movie, and I don’t think I could stand to watch it again.

This isn’t because of a third act or epilogue that throws everything else into doubt, or recontextualizes everything into a sloppy mess. The ending is perfect for what happened. But this is a movie that gives us a life that seems…fine, really. Not amazing, not glamorous, but livable, interesting, and with just a hint of emotional connection that might blossom into more. Then it takes that amazing set piece and throws it against the wall, slowing down time so we can watch it just before it hits, trace the cracks in its foundation, and finally see the whole thing become falling shards. It ruins the main character, after giving us enough time to sympathize with and maybe understand him.

The plot revolves around the driver, played by Ryan Gosling and who, as far as I know, is never given a name. He lives alone, in a room with only the bare minimum needed to live, and he’s an excellent driver. He makes a living by day as a stunt car driver for the movies in Los Angeles, and by night as a getaway driver. So far, it seems like a standard noir setup, begging for one more score so he can get out of the game.

What happens instead is that he slowly, accidentally, starts to connect with his neighbor, a single mother and her young kid. No one specifically reaches out to another person, but a few accidental meetings bring them together, and they almost start to seem like a family. In a less assured movie there would be sappy declarations of feeling whole and “artistic” scenes of the Driver and Irene in bed together, but nothing of the sort happens here. Whether you think they’re sleeping together or just spending time together, a real emotional connection develops, and I’d argue that you could make a whole movie out of that relationship. Instead, the father comes home from prison, and things go south in unexpected ways.

I am ill equipped to review movies, for the most part. I have seen my share, but I’m not a cinephile who could point to how a particular angle was first created, how it’s most often used, and how it’s different in a given scene than it usually is. So I don’t know if I can do Drive justice without spoiling most of the movie, or just rambling about how pretty it is. What I can say is that it knows how to get what it needs to out of surprise and powerful moments, and it understands that you can’t go from high point to high point; downtime matters, and pausing just long enough will make the highs hit harder. It also knows that violence is shocking in real life, not glorious, and those moments are queasy at best, downright horrifying at worst. There are no “Fuck Yeah!” moments here. Any thought of “winning” with violence is erased by just how far our hero can and does go when he’s pushed hard enough.

I won’t say you need to see Drive. This isn’t a movie for everyone. But for God’s sakes, if you’ve ever felt bored with an action movie you’d looked forward to, or predicted how a car chase scene will end and been proven right, you should go see Drive. It is brutal, heartfelt, and brilliant. And the music is perfect.

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