Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Movie – Drive (2011)

The film Drive is one that is liked by quite a few people, so they were disappointed when it received only one Oscar nomination and that it was only for Sound Editing.  The film has hit a nerve with quite a few people and that is for a good reason.  Despite the fact that it is based on James Sallis’ book of the same name, the film is actually a modern day remake of the very popular classic western Shane (1953).

Shane was well liked when it came out because of the storyline and because of what happens with the hero.  Drive does the same thing, just in a modern setting.  The main character even drives a Mustang for part of the film.

Ryan Gosling plays the Alan Ladd role of the lone man with a mysterious past.  He is never given a name in the film (another classic western reference to the “man with no name”.)  He is only referred to as “Driver” or “Kid”.  Carey Mulligan plays Irene, the Jean Arthur role of the young mother.

Driver makes a living as a stunt driver and auto mechanic by day and a getaway driver by night.  He becomes involved in the life of a young mother and her son.  Despite the fact that she is married, they obviously start to have feelings for each other.  Driver bonds with her son, too.  The father comes homes from prison, but is pressured to do another job for the bad guys.  Driver agrees to help him with it and ends up taking on all the bad guys to protect the mother and child.  People have been debating the ending of Shane for more than five decades.  Assuming there is no sequel, people will be debating the ending of Drive for quite some time, too.

Albert Brooks got good notice for his work in the film.  He’s playing a heavy by the name of Bernie Rose.  My favorite line comes when Driver first meets him.  Bernie reaches to shake hands.  Driver says, "My hands are a little dirty."  Bernie responds, "So are mine."  Also in the film are Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men).

During the film Driver tells the story of the scorpion and the frog.  A scorpion needs to get across a stream and asks a frog to carry him.  The frog says that the scorpion will sting him.  The scorpion says that that would be stupid because then he would drown himself, too.  The frog agrees to do it and halfway across the scorpion stings him.  The frog asks why and the scorpion says that he just can’t escape his nature.

Through most of the film Driver wears a jacket with a scorpion on it.  He is the scorpion.  Despite wanting to be a better person, one that is worthy of the mother, he just can’t escape his hinted at violent nature, even though it may lead to his downfall.  This is demonstrated by a scene in an elevator that literally illustrates the term “overkill”.  FYI – someone put trivia on IMDB saying that the scorpion jacket meant Driver was the frog that was carrying the scorpion on his back.

Drive has a lot of mood to it.  If you respond to the “lone hero” type of story then you will definitely like this film.  If you are also a fan of westerns, then I definitely recommend Drive.  For everyone else, if it sounds interesting then give it a try.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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  1. Excellent review Chip! I haven't seen Drive yet. But the comparison to Shane made me want to watch it even more. The freudian themes of the original Western sound irrelevant and obvious. However, I always get a step back when there is a huge buzz around a movie and this might be the reason why I haven't seen it so far...

  2. 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 Chip.

  3. @Michael Parent - Thanks! I believe much of the acclaim comes from the "doing more with less" performance by Gosling. By not explaining his back story, and by not having him pour out his heart, he remains mysterious and therefore an object of much discussion by people who have seen the movie.

    @Dan O. - There's nothing to feel guilty about. Had I only gone by the trailers and title I would have expected it to be much more of an action film. Tidbits about the film had filtered through to me, though, so I knew not to expect that. It's funny you mentioned the sighing and looking at each other. One of my favorite comments on the film comes from Carey Mulligan. She described her job as "staring longingly at Ryan Gosling for hours each day."

  4. I am a recent convert to the cult of Refn and this is my favorite film of his so far. I must admit I have never seen Shane but if its anything like this film I will have to check it out.
    Hard for me to believe overly melodramatic and poorly edited films like war horse and hugo got a best picture nod and this film got the shaft.
    Nice post and I enjoyed checking out your blog.

  5. @3guys1movie - Thanks for commenting. Shane is a classic western, so if what you liked best about Drive was the cars then you won't get it from Shane. Just a heads up.

    As for War Horse and Hugo, I agree with you on the former, but disagree on the latter.