I first heard about Drive from Kavinsky's twitter feed. I was a big fan of the Nightcall EP and when he announced that the single would be featured in the movie, my interest was piqued. Kavinsky's music is inspired by cars, comics and video games from the 80's. Kavinsky himself dons a letterman jacket and drives a rare Testarossa across PCH late at night. The pairing was undeniably fitting. Once I learned Nicholas Winding Refn (Bronson, Valhalla Rising) was directing, I was completely sold.
Film buffs will draw many parallels between Drive and classics like Bullit or Point Blank. The protagonist has a similar reticent coolness about him that seems to channel equal amounts of Steve McQueen and Lee Marvin. So stoic in fact, that Refn and Gosling apparently spent a lot of time removing dialogue from the script, keeping only what was absolutely essential to the film. Like Point Blank's protagonist, Gosling acts on principal alone and remains constantly focused on his objective. He doesn't drink, smoke or womanize. He doesn't care about money, only about the ones he loves. A real hero.
The pace of the film will seem slow to those who prefer a more Fast and Furious action flick. In fact, one would imagine the title refers to perseverance more than the actual act of driving a car. The car chase scenes are brief but impeccable and realistic. The opening getaway scene had me gripping my seat with it's well-paced build. No ramping over intersections or detours through crowded shopping malls. Just clever, defensive getaway driving. Again, a perfectly selected downtempo italo-disco track by the Chromatics works perfectly for this scene.
By the second act, the violence fetish angle in Winding Refn's previous works becomes apparent. A heist gone wrong sends the protagonist on a revenge-fueled killing streak. Despite the brutality, it's still clear that Gosling's character is guided only by the purest intentions, which I loved. Too many action films display violence out of misguided rage or blood-lust (see XXX). Even the much talked about "head-smashing" scene (inspired by Gaspard Noe's Irreversible) came from a place of passion.
While Gosling's performance is impressive, one can't overlook the ensemble. Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman more than filled out the story with characters I haven't seen any of them portray before. I was also smitten with Carey Mulligan by the end of the film. Her understated beauty was a great choice. The film wouldn't have been as enjoyable with a well known babe in my opinion. I like to think this was another calculated decision by Winding Refn made to add to the film's suspension of disbelief. No one can kill two people in a hotel room then walk around in broad daylight covered in blood without alerting the police, but with Drive, you subconsciously ignore these details and give in to the fantasy.
The production and wardrobe team created a tasteful overall look to the film. Like Collateral or True Romance, the feel of Los Angeles was apparent through the whole movie. Just enough neon lights and palm trees to create a setting without cramming it down your throat. For me though, Gosling's jacket may have been the true star. A light silver satin racing jacket inspired by Korean souvenir jackets from the 80's and early 90's. Timelessly cool. The apropos detail of an embroidered golden scorpion on the back sealed the deal for me when Gosling's character quotes Aesop's The Scorpion and the Frog. It's safe to say that it sits in the holy jacket triumvirate along with The Fonz's brown leather bomber and Micheal's red Thriller jacket.
I've seen this movie six times, straight up. It was my favorite movie of the year and I recommend it to anyone who wants a bit of everything when they go to the movies. Gosling's career will never be the same after this as he has successfully broken out of his heart-throb rom-com mold. I look forward to seeing where he goes from here. As for me, I'll be waiting for the deluxe edition DVD patiently in my room festooned with Ryan Gosling posters and sweet jackets.