At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Drive “2011”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Action-Drama/Stars: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Kaden Leos, James Biberi/Runtime: 100 minutes

I feel it must be said that any film that is more for a male audience which chooses to have neon-pink titles come through on its opening moments must be quite an assertive piece of cinema. Suffice it to say then that Drive is a prime example of such an assertive film due to it literally oozing confidence in practically every department of the overall film from casting to directorial work. Indeed Drive is, in addition to being wonderfully put together, also not only one of the more engaging films from 2011, but also just a dynamic film period. Indeed right from the get-go, the movie chooses to immerse its audience in a world that, from a visual perspective, just seems to ooze cool yet not in a way that is arrogant. Indeed, much like the main character of the piece, the film is actually quite unassuming and low-key in its way of doing things, but it has been constructed so amazingly well, and it’s narrative is showcased by such riveting visual work that you, movie goer, will literally, without realizing it, become immersed in the essence that this film gives off even as it actually manages to negate just how routine the narrative becomes at times. As a result we get a film that is not damaged, but instead aided by how it chooses to utilize its style-as-telling the narrative method. Indeed the narrative may be basic in how it addresses such concepts as respect, being a friend, loving someone, and revenge, but they are all a part of an incredible narrative format that chooses to place an emphasis more on shots that linger and motive-defining shadow to help construct the narrative, and thus tell the story. Indeed it may be minimalist in nature, but it is also a nature that works wonders and is quite a refreshing sight in the world of film. Suffice it to say then that Drive, in my opinion, is a true representative of the kind of cinema that chooses to utilize the very ingredients that are usually used to hide away any flaws a movie may have, and instead enhances them to better improve an already phenomenal film. More than that however, the approach taken by this film also takes what could have been a direct-to-DVD 5 dollar bin kind of film and, with the aid of an immensely talented cast and crew, turns into one of the most engaging movie watching experiences of the past 15 years.

The plot is as follows: Drive tells the story of a phenomenally talented, what else, driver whose choice of occupation is both a brilliant mechanic and a stunt driver for the world of TV and film during the day, but come nighttime lives a double life as a gifted beyond compare getaway driver for hire with a strict set of rules and who is able to aid practically anyone get anyway with anything. Suffice it to say that, as a result of this double life, our intrepid hero chooses to possess a very low-key lifestyle to the point that he chooses to only have interaction with his boss/surrogate father figure Shannon, a garage owner who here recently has brokered a deal with a criminal boss by the name of Bernie for aid in getting a racing team started with our guy driving. Yet it is while all of this is underway that we soon see Driver break off from his normal way of doing things when he chooses to aid a neighbor from his apartment complex by the name of Irene, and soon finds himself becoming friendly with both her and her son Benicio. Yet just as things look like they might take a turn towards romance, the whole thing does a swift U-turn when Irene’s husband, a man by the name of Standard, is released from that glorious summer camp known as prison. We soon discover that Standard is in quite a bit of a bind with the criminal underworld due to owing them quite a bit of protection money from his time in the clink. Having come to care very deeply for both Irene and Benicio, Driver chooses to try and help Standard in any way he can, but when things go from bad to worse, we soon see that Driver has gotten himself involved in a mess of horrific and brutal violence and chaos and if he is to ensure that Irene and Benicio will make it out of this in one piece, he is going to have handle things himself for once instead of just driving on by…..

Now the opening of this film truly is part of the best openings that have ever been showcased in the history of the medium. Indeed this is an opening which absolutely sets up the low key assertiveness and assured style that snake their way throughout the film and also is one which lets the pace and the brilliantly-realized visuals tell us what is going on rather than any heavy handed dialogue and/or narration. Indeed from the riveting opening onward, it is safe to say that the film is thus molded by a intense vibe that looms over the rest of the movie even in the happier moments between our young hero and Irene.  Indeed I say this because there seems to be this weird mixture of both eager anticipation as well as heavy with pathos unease in the film, and yet despite the fact that the film manages to address both of these elements when it is good and ready to do so, the movie also manages to be as hypnotically smooth as ever even when things are their most tranquil or brutal and/or violent. Kudos then to the whole movie staying genuine to the structure that it has designated itself an d not once choosing to toss away either its integrity or sense of pacing to make things any flashier or draw more attention to itself than it would like. Indeed, in regards to the brutal car chase scenes, they are phenomenally shot, quick yet potent and are defined more than anything else by the back-and-forth of the different engines, the collision of metal on metal, and the squeal of the tires hitting asphalt. On the other side of the coin, we see that the violence between people manages to be just as quick and just as brutal, but thankfully is not drawn out anymore than is needed to propel the narrative forward. Not only that, but this is a movie which manages to blend together brutal violence with the heartwarming feeling of love, or at least respect and friendship, together quite wonderfully. Indeed it really is a testament to the wonderful pace that helps the movie stay on an even keel no matter what our cast of characters are pondering, what is going on, or for that matter where the film is headed or even where it has been. In that respect I would like to say that this film is very much the cinematic equivalent of a relatively healthy human heartbeat. It may rise, and it may fall, but it is always there, and always quick to get back to some semblance of normality following movement or pause.

It should also be noted that when it comes to the movie’s cast, and its production, the film also chooses to utilize a minimalistic style in those areas as well. Indeed it may be certainly quite smooth and souped-up, but it is also still quite potent despite not having the sheen and style of other films. The film’s cast of characters may also only be minimally created on a surface level, but their actions, glances, and top-notch work in the film’s photography and lighting departments help fill in the blanks that the script purposely leaves behind. To that end, the cast that is assembled here is truly fantastic. Indeed not only do they play the film on the level, but they also manage to walk in perfect stride with the distinct naturalistic rhythm set in place by the rest of the movie. This of course starts with the lead role, and in regards to that we get wonderful work from noted actor Ryan Gosling who manages to brilliantly showcase for us a young man who may be quite stoic and confident on the outside, but who is a far more complex individual on the inside. An interior which, unlike a lot of stoic heroes, this one doesn’t wear on the sleeve as it were, but rather on his back as we see that the iconography of a scorpion on the back of his distinct jacket actually functions as a reflection of the thematic concept that is key to understanding the rest of the film. It should also be noted that the rest of the cast from Albert Brooks who brings a subtle menace to his role of Bernie to Bryan Cranston who does a wonderful job as the Driver’s surrogate father figure Shannon, a man who constantly finds himself torn between trying to make his way up in the world and helping this kid he’s actually come to care about all do absolutely terrific work with the material they are given, and manage to make an incredible world that much more vibrant and realistic. Indeed with this film even with how brilliantly the actors and their performances are in the finished product they still feel secondary in the grand scheme of things. This is because spoken word is not something that this film allows itself to be defined by. As a result the audience is forced to actually pay attention, for once, and to figure out the story on their own rather than have the movie do all the work for them. Yes, to be fair, this movie’s story is one which is quite simple and one which has been done before, but rather than make the narrative tropes of the mafia, money, and being double-crossed and the like feel generic, the film instead manages to make them alluring in a way you wouldn’t think possible. Indeed you may have seen many films like this one before, but I promise you haven’t seen put together quite like this. Indeed every single ingredient manages to come together into a film that works on nearly every level. Indeed the brutality is at ease with the tranquility, and the motion is never in combat against the calm. Indeed this is a film to look at as much as you will want to watch it; indeed it is the method in how the movie molds the narrative, and not the way it tells us the story that distinguishes it among other ways. Suffice it to say therefore that for deviating from the norm in such a simple manner, it manages to make all the difference necessary to help transform this film from something you put on to waste a couple of hours into something that is pure and simply timeless.

All in all Drive is an engaging yet smaller both in nature and in scale film that nevertheless is quite unlike the vast majority of film vehicles that are an integral part of the world of filmmaking, and just movie magic in general, in this day and age. Indeed it isn’t wrong to say that this is a film which more flash and polish than actual narrative substance, and is concerned with other things than making a profit. Yet I would also argue that this is a genuinely special situation where the style we are getting is so wonderfully done, primarily because it is both wonderfully restrained yet incredibly taut and riveting at the same time, that it manages to overshadow the narrative substance that is offered; a substance that, despite not being as deep as some would like is still a brand of substance that becomes quite pathos-driven, and one could argue meaningful, the more the audience decides to really immerse themselves in this narrative. Suffice it to say then that not only does the cast and crew all work in perfect synchronicity on this film, but this is also a true defining example of genuine movie magic from the past 20-years, and that is something that is truly special, amazing, and genuinely iconic all its own….On a scale of 1-5 I give Drive “2011” a solid 4 out of 5.

Normally this would be where the trailer would be placed, but having watched the trailer I have discovered that it spoils a significant number of plot details so I am, out of respect to you, the viewer, electing not to put it up. Thank you once again everyone and I’ll see you guys…..at the movies! Ag