Drive review

Drive poster
Love that pink font.

I think it was only last year that I was introduced to Nicholas Winding Refn‘s work with his 2009 Valhalla Rising. In that film, Mads Mikkelsen plays a mute warrior who accompanies a band of crusaders on a very violent sort of spiritual journey. Before that, Refn worked on the (Danish) Pusher trilogy, which depicts a drug dealer’s equally ill fated descent into the bowels of Copenhagen. What I like about these films is that they don’t go for ‘grand’ or ‘epic’ stories. Instead, there is a focus on a more personal level of misery. Much like in David Cronenberg‘s crime films (A History of Violence and Eastern Promises), all the events feel very ‘small scale’, but thoroughly unfiltered. This made me wonder, what would a similar approach do for a film that’s called Drive?

Drive‘s story revolves around a driver (Ryan Gosling), a girl (Carey Mulligan) and the criminals (Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks) the driver both wittingly and unwittingly involves himself with. The driver works as a mechanic, a stunt driver and as wheel man for quick getaways. In order to avoid trouble with that last occupation, the driver keeps a set of rules: 5 minutes, that’s all his clients get, after that, they’re on their own. Once the girl, inevitably, causes him to deviate from these rules, things start to go wrong. Honestly though, these specifics are about as irrelevant as the trailer that might as well have been cut for a different film altogether. Actually, you know what? Don’t click that link, don’t watch that trailer. It’ll just spoil some of the good bits and give you the completely wrong idea. Drive‘s strength comes from something else entirely.

Are your eyes drawn to the word in pink on the poster? Mine are too. Irresistibly drawn, in fact. The garish pink might look out of place elsewhere, especially when it’s used for a word that is otherwise considered to be rather masculine. Here it carries the promise of genre subversion, and against the dark blue hue of that dashboard, maybe even a return to the fabled 1984. Drive has its violent moments and there are chase scenes, sure, but I feel these are all just excuses to put to film the moments in between. Drive is a remarkable exploration of the car’s interior and by extension, the driver’s subconscious (which has a preference for simply driving to a good soundtrack).  Maybe this works only for people who have a love for cars, but time can seem to stop in transit. This happens on one occasion where the driver and the girl share a moment just driving through the streets of Los Angeles. In the darkness, city lights play across their features as the car glides along, the girl’s hand finds the driver’s and the utterly infectious 80s ‘synth-pop’ soundtrack does the rest. You’ll be humming this for weeks.

The film ends in similar fashion as we’re treated to a gorgeous close-up of the driver gripping the wooden grain of the steering wheel. By underlining this with music from a different era, Drive manages to find the rhythm to the forgotten pleasures a car can provide. If this sounds like something you could be into at all, you should definitely see this film.


  1. […] Llewyn Davis. Davis is played by Oscar Isaac, whom I was already familiar with from Refn’s Drive (2011). In what probably isn’t a coincidence, that film also paired him with Carey Mulligan […]