Drive – Movie Review

I can hear cars roaring down the street, a sound I used to despise. I know the driver has his or her foot on the pedal of a set of wheels that gives them a sense of entitlement,  reveling in a long stretch of road without any pedestrians. Or else they’re just driving idiotically and putting innocent pedestrians in danger  (just as likely in Dubai), which is when I shake my fist and hurl curse words at speed. Some people take advantage of the privilege they have behind the wheel of a car. I remember the first time I sat behind the wheel of a car, my father in the passenger seat instructing me on what to do. “This is your first time driving and there’s one thing you should know about the car: it’s a weapon,” he told me. I think about that warning often.

Drive is about a man with a weapon trying to protect others with the only ability he possesses, a talent he hasn’t utilized to the fullest. It’s the capacity to drive recklessly and silently, to deftly slither along side streets without drawing attention and to intimidate other cars like you’re the king of the jungle. It’s a quiet power that he keeps to himself. From the very first beat of Drive, you can feel this special skill of his weighing down on him. It weighs down on you, too, as you watch it. He aids in committing crimes but throughout the film it’s difficult to look at him as an antagonist. He is a victim, rather, of his own expertise. He lives by himself, taking care not to know too much and not to tell too much. His interactions with others remain at the surface level and there is very little verbally revealed about him as a character. You have to make your assumptions. The way Ryan Gosling portrays this character, who wears a large reflective Scorpion on the back of a racing jacket, is with complete stillness — a strength I admire in an actor and one I’ve watched him cultivate in his years on camera. It’s very different from the days when he played the dorky character of Sean Hanlan on the Canadian TV show Breaker High, that’s for sure.

The film watches him, almost literally. His pensive job at the auto shop. Behind the wheel of a stunt car. In a getaway car. You get a peek at his life and his introverted walks down working class grocery store aisles, sitting at a bar alone, or simply driving. Then he meets his neighbor, an attractive young woman named Irene (played by Carey Mulligan), and her young son. Her husband is in prison and Gosling’s character (unnamed throughout the film) develops a close bond with the mother and son. Irene and the Driver say virtually nothing to each other and some of  the moments between them  are so private and tension-filled that you become a voyeur looking into their lonely lives that are suddenly uplifted by each other. It’s special and it moves so slowly that you wonder if the screen is dragging in slow motion. When the husband is released from jail, the Driver is forced to take care of his debts from jail in order to protect the family. Talk about baggage! That’s when a lot of the action starts and the movie speeds up. Car chases, heists gone wrong, lots of gore and gunshots fight to dominate the film. But the high-pressure exchanges continue between the Driver and every individual he encounters. He is the anti-hero till the end.

Drive is not just about driving. It has all the elements of an action speed flick and the right parts of a drama. Oh, and since it came out in 2011 it’s been dubbed “noir.” It’s unlike me to want to read a book after watching the movie, but apparently Drive is based on a book that’s even more brooding than the film. Just my type!

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