ďIf I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I'm yours no matter what. I don't sit in while you're running it down; I don't carry a gunÖI drive."
Hereís what I wrote about this awesome piece of cinema back in September of 2011:
ďNicolas Winding Refnís Drive is an ambient mood piece that his you like a shot of nitroglycerine enhanced adrenaline yet goes down as smoothly as an expensive slug of single-malt. It hits fast, hits hard and hits home, the whole thing a pulsating angst-riddled drama of fate and circumstance that plays itself out like a fevered dream of irrational rationality that refuses to dissipate and lingers in the psyche long after the film has come to an end.
In other words, Drive is awesome. Part Michael Mann, part John Frankenheimer, part Jean-Pierre Melville crossed with Jules Dassin and Robert Bresson, the movie retains Refnís signature style and punchy authority he established with his well regarded Pusher trilogy and brought front and center with Bronson and Valhalla Rising. This isnít a story-driven picture, although narrative is important, and it certainly isnít all about the characters, although each and every one of them, even the ones who only appear for a scene or two, resonate. No, this is a cinematic nightmare made with French New Wave style and early 1980ís Hollywood action flick attitude, the whole thing a mix of hyperactive emotions, electronic techno arias and cyberpunk euphoria kick-started with an industrial four-cylinder edge thatís as fuel efficient as it is kick-ass.
And what is the plot? All you need to know is that Ryan Gosling plays a driver, a very good one, in fact, so good this Hollywood stuntman is able to moonlight as a midnight wheelman assisting in some of Los Angelesí most daring robberies. He befriends a girl in his building, played by Carey Mulligan. He is the confidant and right-hand man to a semi broken down auto shop owner, played by Bryan Cranston. Through him, he makes the acquaintance of a pair of nefarious crime lords, one of whom has designs on going into legitimate business, the pair portrayed by Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks.
What else? Plenty, but Iím not going to reveal any of it here. Like Mannís Thief our hero tries to help someone out and things do not go precisely as planned. Lines in the sand are drawn, people are double-crossed, many end up dead, all of it a labyrinthine mess Goslingís driver must find away to navigate if heís going to make it out alive.
Based on the book by James Sallis and with a screenplay by Hossein Amini (The Wings of the Dove, The Four Feathers), Refn eschews normal typical narrative tropes choosing a path of quiet over volume, calm over rage, serenity over intensity, and in the process manages to amplify the feelings of dread, fear and imminent disaster in the doing so. There is an air of tragedy hanging over things like a toxic mist that at any second could crash down upon the characters with a thunderous, unanticipated fury. There is blood. There is violence. There is by all means pain. But all of that and more is means to an end, Refn never losing sight of the bigger picture everything culminating in a series of rhythmic events that captured my attention body and soul.
Gosling dominates, and while it would be easy to compare him to say Steve McQueen in Bullitt or James Garner in Grand Prix Iíd say heís more like Alain Delon in Melvilleís Le SamouraÔ than he is anything else. At the same time, this is his own characterization, his own design on tough guy cool, and while he pays homage to many of the greats who came before him Goslingís works stands on its own as a new standard future similar depictions will undoubtedly be judged against.
Everyone else is great as well, Brooks and Cranston being the obvious standouts either of whom could potentially find themselves sitting at the Kodak Theatre early next year as a supporting actor Academy Award nominee. In reality, though, other than Gosling Drive isnít exactly a showpiece for the actors. Newton Thomas Sigelís (The Conspirator) cinematography, Mat NewmanĎs (Bronson) editing, Cliff Martinezís (Contagion) music, Beth Mickleís (Cold Souls) production design and Christopher Tandonís (Where the Wild Things Are) art direction, these are the things that stand out the most here, and even if I wanted to try (which I do not) I doubt I could stop thinking about the lot of them.
Refnís film wonít be for all tastes. It isnít necessarily a happy movie, and it doesnít offer up easily digestible platitudes or offer up an ending where all the bows are tied and all of the knots are unwound. It is ragged, dangerous, in many ways emotionally toxic, and for some those are traits that are going to disgust more than they are going to fascinate. Yet for my part Drive is a masterwork on more levels than I can recount here, a stylized thriller worthy of debate, discussion and, most of all, a place on my list of 2011ís best motion pictures.Ē
This is a seriously great motion picture, one of the best Iíve seen in quite some time and watching it again at home I almost feel remiss listing it all the way down at number five on my list of 2011ís Top Ten. Refnís film is an instant classic and a picture to be cherished, and I have a sneaky suspicion weíre going to be talking about it reverentially for many decades to come.
Drive is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.40:1/1080p transfer.
Drive comes to Blu-ray in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and includes optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here include:
∑ I Drive (5:26)
∑ Under the Hood (11:50)
∑ Driver and Irene (6:14)
∑ Cut to the Chase (4:35)
∑ Drive Without a Driver: Entretien Avec Nicolas Winding Refn (25:41)
The best extra here is the in-depth interview piece with Refn, definitely the discís highlight. As for the four featurettes, all are fine, if not all that memorable, each going as far as they need to and sadly no further.
The disc also features previews for a ton of upcoming Sony and FilmDistrict releases, and comes both BD-Live and UltraViolet Enabled.
Obscene lack of Oscar nominations aside, Drive is a masterpiece; watch it immediately.