Drive (2011) is that one girl/guy from school. Great looking, terrible at conversations. Here’s a thing about it:
I once saw Ryan Gosling at TIFF, he was crowded with people. I yelled ‘RYAN’ at him. He didn’t respond. I think he didn’t hear me.
Drive, a movie made by a cinematographer who has a boner for good driving sequences, a disdain for good (or any) dialogue, and a hatred for terribly shot films — a movie by a visually inclined, for the visual inclined. This movie is gorgeous and it knows it. The whole duration of the film, it mesmerizes you with stunning visuals and gratuitous violence, making you forget that everything else is kind of, bad. The dialogue, the acting, the story — it’s all mediocre. Drive is that girl/guy you dated and their personality was definitely not the reason why (stop telling yourself you guys connected).
Let’s talk about everything bad about this film. First, the story. Drive was written by someone in high school putting to paper what they perceive as — ‘cool’. Everything about this movie is from a perspective of someone who doesn’t have the full grasp of just how the real world works or how real people talk. Everything about the story is juvenile and cliché. Drive from start to finish is just a collection of ‘wouldn’t it be cool’ scenarios. He had to be a cool driver, who becomes a race car driver, who drives without any helmet on — like fucking really? Plus wouldn’t it be cool if he was a stunt driver for Hollywood? C’mon now. Drive’s storytelling while bad is not questionable because you know it’s bad and it knows it’s bad. It knows what it is.
Another aspect that’s just lacking from Drive is the characters. When you really step back from the allure of Drive’s visuals, its characters are just shells of actual human beings: incapable of emotions, conversation, and basic motor function (even the strippers doesn’t give any fucks whatsoever). Drive is the exact opposite of a Tarantino movie. While Tarantino’s characters are “cool” through dialogue and character building, Drive would rather show you.
Drive’s story is therefore, as my colleagues from work would say: anime.
Oh boy, let’s talk about the sound in Drive (Note while watching: don’t worry the audio is not muted and no, your speakers are not broken). For a movie that’s visually so loud, Drive is a very quiet film. It was so quiet I had to turn the subtitles on for a lot of the dialogue — I don’t want to miss the juvenile story now do I. This movie is so visually reliant even the audio needs to be visualized. Don’t even get me started on the soundtrack for this movie. I don’t want to revisit the thought of someone voluntarily putting techno music in a movie (Note: there is no Russian clubs in this movie, there is absolutely no reason it should contain any techno music). I could write a whole rant about how horrendous the music is but that would be pointless — since it’s a sin I am willing to overlook.
What I do love about Drive is the visuals and the subtleties within it. Yes the audio is muted but it felt like it’s to compensate for how visually lavish and carefully put together the visuals are. Everything is just, beautiful (:okhand:). The neo-noir lighting, the lingering camera, the color palette, the camera work (and editing) during the driving scenes, the composition, the framing, the cinematography, it’s all so beautifully and artistically executed. It’s pure filmic seduction — pornographic really.
Even Drive’s casting choices elevate its visual integrity. The casting of Carey Mulligan as the lead actress — who, and I don’t mean to offend, has a subtle beauty to her. She has that aura of naivety. Her acting doesn’t go overblown but is always subtle. An innocent face to contrast the edged and psychotic charm of Ryan Gosling’s character — whose gaze is wrapped in mystery and intimidation. Carey Mulligan is an island of safety in a space of violence. Ron Perlman as Gangster Ron Perlman (:okhand:).
The overall movement in this film is also sublime. The camerawork for example — either at a complete standstill in focus of gorgeously composed shots, or its beautifully gliding through sequences. Even when the film lingers on a steady cam, the frame always feels alive — whether there’s cars whizzing past in the background or the lighting fills every contour of the characters. Every frame in Drive feels alive (which is very weird considering there’s a lot of staring contests in this film). Yet somehow despite all that, Drive remains subtle.
Even the dialogue (despite being so lackluster in the writing or frequency department) serves to better the film’s visuals. The lines are often short and to the point that it filled the film with long quiet scenes. Yet I wasn’t bored because the visuals was gripping. The shortage of dialogue only makes the audience more mesmerized and focused on what is on the frame and its composition.
In sum, Drive’s visuals is seductive — I have never been so visually interested in two people standing around doing fuck all (or maybe it’s because of Bryan Cranston, yeah it’s probably Bryan Cranston).
I have no qualms with the movie since it worked well, it made up for what it lacked. The visuals and Ron Perlman makes up for everything.
I know why everyone in my Film class in first year chose this movie to masturbate to in their overly pretentious essays (I didn’t chose Drive, but I was just as pretentious). This movie is not deep, but it seduces you to think so. Its complex visuals wants you to dig deeper, it wants you to look at it, how careful it is — it’s porn for the academic. Yet, while beautiful, Drive to me at least, is a shallow movie. Something is there if you look at it, but if it’s so obvious, frequent, and incessant in its complexities, is it really deep? Drive have its flaws but I’d be damned if it isn’t stunning.