1. 100 minutes.  Rated R.

Irene: “What do you do?” Driver: “I drive.”

Did you ever watch a movie and think that it should have been made in a different era? That was my feeling while I was watching Drive. I kept thinking the director, Nicholas Winding Refn, wished it was the 70s or 80s, with the heavy synth music, and driving scenes through the silent streets of L.A. at night. In a way, this film has more in common with a Clint Eastwood western than it does with a modern day action movie. It is the one hero in a harsh world, but this world is the city instead of the desert, and cars take the place of horses.

We start with Ryan Gosling‘s character, who is never referred to by any given name, but when someone asks who he is, he replies, “I’m the driver.” Gosling is a stunt car driver and mechanic by day, but by night, he is the driver for criminals looking to make a quick, efficient getaway. He gets his work through Shannon (Bryan Cranston), who owns the garage, and also has connections with a local crime boss (Albert Brooks like you’ve never seen him before.  He’s not funny or warm for a second).

Driver is the strong, silent type. In fact, he only speaks about four sentences in the first 15 minutes of the film. He keeps to himself but is drawn out by his pretty neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), with whom he shares an instant attraction, and many long, meaningful looks. In another movie, those looks would have felt awkward, but with Driver you understand that THIS is how he communicates.

The problem arises when Irene’s husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) comes home from jail, and although he wants to go straight, he needs to do one last job to pay off someone. Of course, Driver offers his services to help keep Irene and her son safe, and from there, everything goes wrong.

When I say things go wrong, I mean the film goes quickly to extreme bursts of violence. If you are squeamish at all about blood and gore and say, stabbings, for example, you may want to stay away from this one. I normally deal well with that, but one scene which features a brutal stomping forced me to cover my eyes.

You probably have seen dozens of films which feature a criminal with a heart full of remorse, trying to go straight. The guy who knows how to kill someone one hundred different ways, but has a soft spot for a girl, or a kid, or a dog. The difference between those movies and this one is Driver. In an odd sense, he is pure. Very tiny changes in what he does, in what he says, and the depth of his silences, clue us into his state of mind. It tells us how much he cares, how smart he is. He doesn’t toss off wisecracks; he is the still river that runs deep, yet he is simple at the same time. I give Gosling extra points for being able to say so much, while saying so little. He nailed this character, except for one scene, which I felt lacked believability (he holds a girl down on a bed roughly to get information), but otherwise I was sold on Driver.

Much like Gosling’s character, the storyline is straightforward. It is stripped down, missing the glitz and explosions of the typical action film. The overall mood of the film is dark. The characters are living on the edge, ready to turn to primal bursts of violence if it is warranted. There is art to this picture in the throbbing of the music, the shine on a car’s hubcaps, the shadows on the ground, and the sweeping light on the beach. It is a movie where there is a lot in all of the little things.

Because of its simplicity, it isn’t a movie for everyone. Many will see this picture, and think, it doesn’t have any plot twists, it doesn’t have any dialogue, or why did I watch this? But, if you can see the strength in the silence, in the hero who is doing only what he must, in the loner whose connections to others are tenuous at best, then you’ll see the bigger picture, and it is a pretty darn good one. 

If you’d like something amazingly similar but with more dialogue, twists and characters, try out Baby Driver from 2017. It has the same storyline, but with several more perks and lots of dizzying driving and shoot out scenes.

Author: Noelle

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