Often, I get a feeling when it comes to a movie or album that I loved as a teenager that I should avoid revisiting it for fear that it doesn’t live up to my memory of it. For me, Drive is one of those movies; a highly stylised action flick with a morally ambiguous protagonist that involves a fair amount of violence and crime. All of the trappings of a movie that I would have loved watching as a 15-year-old are here, but I recently put Drive on for my girlfriend and I to watch one night. Slightly worried that the movie would reflect badly upon my teenage self, I stuck it on regardless and hoped that it wasn’t too meatheaded to enjoy. As it turns out, this is a movie that has stood the test of time for me (so far) and I really enjoyed watching it again, especially with someone who was new to it.
For those unfamiliar, Drive is a 2011 action film starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston that follows an escalating series of criminal activities in LA. Our protagonist is attributed in the casting list simply as ‘Driver’, which highlights the film’s awareness of itself as yet another gritty action movie and the unimportance of any real backstory. We, as the viewer, are very much dropped into the story just as things are starting to heat up for Driver.
As the criminal underworld of Los Angeles seems to become all-encompassing and near-impossible to escape, our protagonist finds himself backed into a corner with very few options. Quickly descending from the idealised version of himself to a dark figure with blood on his hands, Driver becomes unhinged and will do seemingly anything to protect those he loves. Questions arise over whether his loyalties are misplaced, things become unclear and good and evil slowly merge during this descent into the world of crime. When the very people that he sought to protect can hardly recognise him, Driver appears too far gone and becomes an irredeemable character.
On this path of destruction there are some great chase and fight scenes that will get your adrenaline pumping but I think that the best quality of Drive lies in the subtlety of the acting performances. Ryan Gosling does have a reputation of being typecast as the quiet guy capable of anything in action films, and I would wager that much of this reputation stems from this movie. The quiet affection that develops between Driver, Irene (played by Carey Mulligan) and her son provides tender moments that make some of the violence of other scenes appear even more shocking. Even the hopeless charm of Bryan Cranston’s character is very endearing and makes you hope that he can catch a break. All of the wholesome characters that we meet in the first act of the movie are eventually corrupted by the dark criminal underworld that infects everything that it touches.
While the plot may sound completely ordinary by Hollywood’s standard, it is very much a style over substance kind of watch. The soundtrack to the movie is an amazing selection of synth pop tracks that give a very 80s-neon feel to everything and the set design makes every scene feel real. From the greasy mechanics shop, mob-owned pizzeria and strip club dressing room to the car interiors and apartment blocks everything strikes a perfect balance between flair and authenticity. I would say that that sums up the movie quite well, an ongoing struggle between both good and evil, and flair and authenticity. For me, Drive asks questions that a good action film should ask. We are forced to question the actions of everyone, even the protagonist. I’d recommend Drive to anyone looking for a movie that is above all cool and entertaining. You don’t need to look into anything in this movie too deep, even though I just have. Also, for anyone that wants to check out the soundtrack, it is linked below.
Words by Ewan Blacklaw