“What do you do?”
In honor of Edgar Wright’s new car-chase movie Baby Driver, I’ve decided to review one of MY all time favorite car-chase films, directed by Nicholas Winding Refn entitled Drive. Initially, I was a bit apprehensive, not being as big a fan of Nicholas Winding Refn as I would like to be, but as the movie progressed, I began to love it more and more.
Drive starts off with a bang, showing us the daily occurrences surrounding our inexpressive protagonist, and all the thrill and wonder that come with a job as perilous as his. We get to see the character in his element, we are showered with a certain sense of security that this character is competent and experienced enough to not get into trouble. Sure enough the fantastic opener does just that, and reminds us Nicholas Winding Refn doesn’t just direct solely with fancy color schemes and minimal dialogue, but also hair-raising action.
One of the best things about the movie is the characterization. It should be noted that the protagonist’s name is NEVER mentioned throughout the entire run-time of the film, yet he still seems to capture the audience’s heart with his perennially innocuous facial expression, his calming tone of voice, and the sheer purity of his ways. The female main character Irene, goes through quite a bit in this film, and Carey Mulligan ably captures all the emotions the character would be feeling in the situations she was presented with. The low quality of life of the characters in the film really highlights the gritty, and grimy aspects of it, while adding depth to the characters in the process. The “villains” in this film all have justified motivations, they aren’t just pure evil. This helps and detracts from the story at the same time because, once we see our protagonist blur the lines between good and evil, we’re not too sure if what he’s doing is more “morally correct” than the perceived villains. This adds the thrilling element of ambiguity and uncertainty, which grounds the film in reality, but can ultimately make the narrative less comprehensive and complete.
The car chase sequences in this film are absolutely gorgeous, and coupled with the nightmarish aesthetic of Nicholas Winding Refn’s patented ultra-violent style, it makes for an experience very unique to the silver screen. The ultra-violence works well for the film, although it DOES work better for a later film of his entitled Only God forgives; however, the redemption elements of this story give the violence purpose, and the audience can understand the usage of it more easily than in Only God Forgives. The high-speed chases take you into the shotgun seat, as Ryan Gosling maintains his collected facial expression, and maneuvers his way around the city with ease. They’re heart-pumping, awe-inspiring, and supremely creative as well.
Drive combines poetry-esque characterization with a redemptive plot to show a few days in the life of a person we hardly see portrayed on screen. Nicholas Winding Refn’s astute vision, along with powerful performances from the entire cast make this neo-noir a slam dunk in my books, and I’m excited to see if Baby Driver can top or even match this film.
Visual Effects: 10
Story telling: 9
Character Development: 9