Movies: "Drive" | Arts & Culture
Steve McQueen’s Bullitt drove a Ford Mustang, Sean Connery’s James Bond drove an Aston Martin. The unnamed driver played by Ryan Gosling in “Drive” uses a low-profile Chevy Impala to make his crime scene getaways as innocuous as possible.
He’s a professional, working in a garage and driving movie stunt cars by day and coolly piloting getaway cars by night. We know almost nothing else about him, because he rarely speaks more than two words at a time.
His ground rules to the people who hire him are simple: “I never carry a gun. I drive.”
Like the characters in some of director Michael Mann’s best movies (“Thief,” “Heat," both also single-named), this driver comes without a back story and with minimal chit-chat. He’s an existential movie character, much like Clint Eastwood’s equally laconic Man with No Name in those early westerns of his.
But then he meets the girl next door. Irene (Carey Mulligan, of “An Education”) is raising her young son (Kaden Leos) while her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac, who played Prince John in the most recent “Robin Hood”) is in prison. For a few moments, the driver’s cool demeanor melts away: he actually smiles.
Of course, there are some really nasty people waiting to erase that smile. There’s Nino (Ron Perlman), a pizza shop owner who works for upscale gangster Bernie Rose (a terrific Albert Brooks), and when Standard gets out of prison, his actions will involve the driver as well as those two bad guys and their gunmen.
And when they threaten Irene and her son, the results will be explosively bloody.
“Drive” was directed by Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refl (“Valhalla Rising”) and was scripted by Hossein Amini (“47 Ronin”) from a novel by James Sallis. With cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel, who shot such great films as “Three Kings,” “Into the West” and “The Usual Suspects”, and an evocative pop soundtrack by Cliff Martinez (“Traffic,” “Sex, Lies and Videotape”), it’s the very essence of an ultra-cool thriller.
I mentioned Michael Mann earlier, because this movie could easily have been one of his. The nocturnal scenes of Los Angeles, the crisply-shot locations, the bare-bones dialogue and the sudden violence all combine to create a hermetic world of male-dominated criminal behavior, similar to many of Mann’s earlier films. (He also gave us the TV series “Miami Vice” and “Crime Story,” which included many of the same elements.)
“Drive” is a terrific, ultra-modern thriller, but a very violent one. For that reason, it’s rated R. I give it a B-Plus.