Possible spoilers ahead
Drive opens with a muted car chase, a stunning view of LA, and electro-pop. It’s very Scarface, the quiet parts. Ryan Gosling probably says a total of 100 words in the film, acting mostly through gazes and eye dilation. It’s intense, the violence gratuitous, the music over-powering but, at the center, extremely reserved. It’s nice.
First off Ryan Gosling is a beautiful, brooding man. I recently watched all of Mad Men Season 4 and his nameless character has a similar effect. His quiet and its all in the eyes, but the stoic-ness betrays sensitivity more than steel. Except when he’s killing people, when he is steel. The men in this movie are knights in the brutal, only tangentially chivalrous sense. They kill for higher reasons, but they do it with razors, knives, forks, metal, steel. There is honor amongst thieves, but precious little outside.
One of the most telling scenes is where an elevator closes between the Driver and the girl, him irrevocably on the other side.
The cinematography is beautiful. One of the best scenes is just them walking around a grocery store. The costumes are also amazing. The Driver just exudes bad-assery, from his scorpion jacket to his lace leather shoes.
There are only three car chases, all relatively short. They’re not car races, they’re all tactical, stops, turns and feints. What’s more telling is how he idles the car, how he waits, and when he goes. They’re also very short.
Each scene is framed by sound. From the effects to constant background music to the electro theme A Real Hero. It’s all sex and glass and everything good about the 80s with none of the shizz people try not to remember.
Drive is a beautiful film. It teaches you nothing insanely useful about the world, it’s just a story full of beautiful people, beautiful things, and ugly ugly humanity. Their are scenes of obscenely realistic violence, and it’s all stabbing or death at close quarters. There’s no sex in the movie, but the murders are all highly sexual. I tend to like violence and stories of men men doing real fight or flight things.
I like to think these are archetypical stories a la Beowulf or the Ramayana or the Iliad, which they are, just modern cinema has to show them on the edges, in the darkness. Because it’s really madness, and there was nothing good or noble about it in the first place. These men used to be kings but now they’re just criminals. We still admire them, but mostly in the collective unconsciousness that is film.