Drive 2011 US
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Screening at UK cinemas.
This is not going to be an easy film to write about. I knew that when I’d finished watching it. Truth be told, I didn’t think a lot of it, as an overall product which hangs together at least, but at the same time I can’t quite pin down what it is about it that is so soulfully missing for me.
There are things I could site like the fact that the movie is almost a celebration of style over substance, the medium is the message and all that... I could even tag up the emotional, Pinter-like vacuum that the lead characters inhabit as being a turn off to some folks and possibly being a contributing factor in my lack of appreciation for the movie... but the thing is, that’s not it. If you know my taste by now from being a regular reader (and if you are a regular reader then I thank you from the bottom of my heart) then you’ll know that I love plotless movies where the mise-en-scene takes over and permeates the picture to the degree that it’s all you can watch.
Likewise the “cinema of reflection”, where nothing much is said and the images play out almost as a silent movie, is another thing I enjoy very much... so you would think this film would be tailor-made for me. So neither of those potential “reviewery” type of criticisms apply on this one... and my real problem is that I can’t pinpoint just what was so disappointing about this movie all in all.
It certainly had enough going for it.
It looks and feels like a late sixties/early seventies movie in the way it’s edited together with long shots and takes which evolve slowly and go along at their own pace. There’s a brilliant colour palette and sense of lighting going on in the overall shot design which just adds to some truly stunning compositions that show a fascination with pitching characters in and out of vertically striped compositions.
There’s some brilliant acting going on... Carey Mulligan is always going to be great (well, after all, she was Sally Sparrow in the Doctor Who episode Blink... she can do no wrong) and Ron Perlman is as professional and watchable as always. Ryan Gosling, who I’d not seen before, was also surprisingly good as he, quite blatantly actually, tried to combine Steve McQueen’s performance from Bullit and cross fade it with nods to young Ryan O’ Neill and young Warren Beatty. This worked really well and was used to offset little pockets of exploding violence which are scattered and used to punctuate the film.
So everything was working well, especially for the first twenty minutes which showed some really interesting “stop and start” intelligent getaway driving for a change... could have done with some more sequences like that in the movie. They really had me siding with the “smartness” of the character from the start and I was well on the way to really enjoying this movie when... it just didn’t make good on that initial promise. It didn’t really go anywhere... it doesn’t have to, of course, and again that’s not necessarily the reason why I had such an adverse reaction to it... but something wasn’t quite making it for me. Wish I knew what the heck that was. Left the cinema thinking... “Wow. That could have been a really great movie... instead, it was less than mediocre”... and that I couldn’t watch it again.
On the other hand, the really bad thing about it was the truly terrible and corny music throughout the film. The songs in it really were a touch too far and I would have given composer Cliff Martinez a lot more room to breathe and do something really driven instead of having whole sequences turn into cheesy cornball song commentary. The music choices could have been a lot better on this one and may have helped lift the film closer to what was needed to make it more of a vital piece of cinema as opposed to the “could have been a contender” status it now has. Trust me, this film won’t really be remembered ten years from now unless it’s on the strength of the director who seems to have done a fair job at juggling some of the components here... hopefully he will learn from his mistakes, which for me defines what this movie is. A glorious mistake in some ways, perhaps, but certainly not quite what I suspect it was aspiring to.
Never mind, there’s always next time. I’ll take a hasty, handbrake turn and burn rubber away from the DVD release of this one when it finally squeals into shops. I’ll park my ride somewhere else rather than watch this one again, through rose-tinted windscreen wipers.