Some movies have you at their titles sequence. They bring to mind memories from the past, actors who became symbols, iconic shots, bigger than life characters, titles made of gold: Taxi driver, Pale Rider, Bullit.
Movies most filmmakers dream of, they think they can make, they know the recipe, put in the right ingredients and still, 9 times out of 10, the food comes out somewhat bland.
Then comes a Danish director by the name of Nicolas Winding Refn (Pusher -1996, Bronson -2008), who fidgets with the classic American story of the cursed hero with no name, revs the engine and takes it all the way to the finish line of legend. And all that before the movie makes its way from the festival circuit to the cinemas and ends up on the shelves of the DVD stores.
So what if this director failed his driver's license exams, 8 times ?
The hero of Drive has no past, no name. He is a Hollywood driver/ stuntman, a garage mechanic and occasionally a getaway driver for hire. He lives a lonely-ascetic life until he falls in love with his neighbor, a young woman named Irene who lives with her son Benicio. The father of the family is in jail. When he is released his old "partners in crime" blackmail him into taking part in a robbery. The driver offers to help him pay off his debts, but everything goes wrong.
Ryan Gosling delivers the role of the hero in low tones, with a moderate-leisurely manner, more machine than human himself, with a voice barely heard and a look that's difficult to decode. Hence the outbreak of violence that follows, his primitive side that is revealed is a reversal of its own.
The hero is what he does, not what he says. His actions define him.
He never says "I love you", he sacrifices for those he loves. His unique driving skills are his weapons, his way to avenge, his survival mechanism, the means of his final escape.
Fundamental lessons in screenwriting from the Iranian Hossein Amini who took the homonymous book of James Sallis and deconstructed it -almost stripped it naked , leaving it in its pure substance.
Hence the almost nonexistent elliptical dialogues that leave the shots, the editing and the music to do all the work.
The music of the film has a story of its own. If we did not know we'd thought we had dived into the melodic 80s. The electronic/pop music bands like Kraftwerk and the sound of Eurovision (!!!) inspired the director, who believes that Los Angeles is a city stuck in the 80s.
Music producer Cliff Martinez brought together the sound of bands from around the world and with his own musical score, created an incredible soundtrack. Special mention should be made to the College song "A real hero".
The whole gist of the character, the verse: "by day he was a human being and by night he was a hero"
The casting, just perfect: Carey Mulligan is the innocent and loving mother who falls for the hero, Oscar Isaac is the repentant husband with the prescribed fate, the "villains" Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks, at the limit of the grotesque and painfully dangerous and Bryan Cranston as Shannon is the father figure of the hero, who finds himself surrounded by these characters and their choices and he is led to the final violent outburst.
A big fan of Scorsese, Winding Refn, couldn't but have in mind the Taxi-Driver. When we watch the hero driving in the artificially lit streets of LA, we remember of another lonely hero by the name of Travis Bickle in a taxi, roaming the streets of NYC and taking upon him to save, Iris, the teenage prostitute, in another terrible outburst of violence (Taxi Driver -1976).
Here we also find Albert Brooks, one of the villains of Drive.
The reasons why you should watch Drive: All the above. A classic American story told in a modern "European" way, where form serves narration and with breathtaking anthology scenes like the one in the elevator.
Certainly one of my favorite films of all time and with Steve McQueen's "Shame" a great injustice in the 2012's Oscar race, with only one nomination for best achievement in sound editing .
Although Winding Refn, won the award for best director in the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and with it a place in the heart of all film enthusiasts.
You can find more reviews on my blog Cinelina