Unreal Movie Review: Drive

Reinventing the action film is no easy task, particularly for a movie with as little fuss and fanfare as Drive. Ryan Gosling, a car, a girl, some punching, it didn’t exactly seem like it was aiming to do much except increase Gosling’s street cred and move him from The Notebook to a theoretical action star.

But somehow out of nowhere Drive isn’t just a good film, it’s one of the best of the year so far. It’s a completely unexpected surprise, in both its quality, but also its content. This is welcome for someone tired of the mindless shaky cam nonsense that usually passes for an action film in Hollywood, but for the crowd that usually shells out big bucks for that sort of feature, Drive may be a disappointment.

The initial scene is an apt summary of the type of film that’s to follow. Gosling’s forever unnamed driver is working his night job as a getaway man. After two crooks rob a bank, he starts to make a getaway. A normal action film would have him squealing his tires right off the bat while the robbers shoot automatic weapons out the windows. But not so in Drive. Here Gosling creeps along through the  dark streets, avoiding cops quietly, only in brief, rare moments resorting to full-on dodging, weaving and powersliding.

It’s representative of the type of film that’s to follow. More often than not, Drive is slow. Painfully slow in fact, so much so that on occasion it elicits groans from the audience as conversations appear to unfold in slow motion with long dramatic pauses between every other word. For a film that promises action, it stretches for what feels like eons before anything actually exciting happens.

Somebody say something already!

All of a sudden however, these moments hit. And boy, do they hit hard. The quiet film is interjected with bursts of extreme and brutal violence the likes of which I haven’t seen onscreen in quite some time. There’s a brutal realism to it that is jarring, and especially more so because of the languishing pace of the rest of the movie.

The film’s commitment to the slow burn is admirable, and though it can seem excessive, it pays off in spades during these incredibly intense moments. They may only populate a fraction of the film, but the payoff is far greater than if the same scenes were interspersed with a film full of constant car crashes and gunfights.

In this sense, Drive is unlike nearly any action movie I’ve seen. It fully commits to its characters rather than its set pieces, and focuses on painting a clear picture of the mysterious Driver as he selflessly aids a woman, her son and even her husband, despite his obvious fondness for his wife. Similar time is spent crafting characters like Bryan Cranston’s pathetic but kindly shop owner Shannon and Albert Brooks’s friendly but brutal mobster Bernie.

The movie does well to give roles to talented TV stars both with Breaking Bad’s Cranston and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks.

The score of the film gives it a decidedly ‘80s feel, as does the Risky Business title font, but the rest of it feels modern. Like the art house has forced an action movie to evolve into something greater.

It may take a while to sink it that Drive is a brilliant film. The previews and concept paint it as a balls out action flick, and when that doesn’t come to pass, many in the audience will be disappointed. After the great initial chase, the film lays on the brakes for about an hour, and by the time it picks up again, might lose a good portion of the audience’s interest.

It might not be what you’re expecting, but if you can manage the slow pace you’ll find an exceptionally worthwhile and well-made film. In this modern era of overstimulation, especially in the action, it’s refreshing to see a film in this genre take its time and not have to rely on CGI or a constant parade of explosions.

Drive may take a while to get where it’s going, but after it does, you’ll be glad you stuck around for the journey.

4 out of 5 stars

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  1. This is an easy 5/5 for me. Easily the best movie I’ve seen in quite some time, and although I can see where you’re coming from in regards to the limited dialogue of the film, I thought the pacing was excellent and the relationships between Gosling and every other character were tense and powerful. The movie had me on the edge of my seat throughout its entire running time… And I guess the mind-numbingly awesome bursts of violence weren’t half bad either.

  2. loved it! now in my top ten films. it reminded me of two other of my fav. off paced movies. In Bruges, and collateral both of them were called action flicks but kinda had a odd slow pace.

    Btw First time poster long time reader.

  3. i liked it but had read the script beforehand and was disappointed to realize that many of the best action sequences had been dropped or changed for the worse. it was way more of an exciting movie in the version i read.

  4. I feel a little bit guilty saying that Drive needed more driving. When the action comes it is tense and artfully done without shying away from the extreme violence, but that all starts to go away as soon as the characters start talking, or sighing and looking at each other. Nice review. Check out mine when you get a chance.

  5. this film was a joke for any real film fan. it was a b movie for people who do not like b movies. gosling looked like a male model throughout the film, every part was mis cast, story was all over the place(hes a getaway driver, then a stuntman, then a mechanic, then suppose to drive a race car, etc. starts as a heist film, then a drama, then mob film. horribly written and lots of plot holes, and in the end, how much driving was really in drive? the only thing that couldve made this film worse was a shirtless scene with gosling.

    ps i liked james taylor better as “the driver” when he did it 30 years ago.

  6. This movie really sucked, and please, don’t try and sell me the “artsy” concept that all pseudo-critics resort to. It’s a bad movie, plain and simple. Instead of “Drive” it should be called “Stare”. There’s more annoying staring than driving. Tired of all these so called intelectual critics that think they’re above everyone else when they hail crap movies like this one.

  7. I absolutely LOVED this move! After the the opening scene the whole movie could have easily devolved into “The Transporter.” And which I actually liked Transporter 1. The budding relationship is done very well and felt cute realistic. The nuance approach an area usually done in bombastic Hollywood style was a nice change up. Definitely one of the best movies I seen in a while.

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