by Luke Rosica
Recently, I’ve found that I’m less interested in movies that feature “good plots.” Instead, I’m more drawn to films that evoke emotion or ideas through imagery. One of my favorite examples of a film like this is Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. When you break down Drive’s plot, it isn’t that different from many other films in the “driver” genre. It revolves around a girl, money, and driving. Really, the film’s plot isn’t that far removed from a Fast and Furious movie.
Yet I believe the main thing that separates Drive from other action movies is that Refn is in the director’s seat. Refn has a very unique style. The film is like many other Refn movies. The characters have very little dialogue and don’t really do that much. The main characters, Driver (Ryan Gosling) and Irene (Carey Mulligan), don’t say a lot to each other yet find themselves staring longingly into each other’s eyes a lot of the time. The mellow synth soundtrack and soft lighting tell us all that can be said about these characters. We can see how happy Driver is while he’s around Irene and how unhappy he is everywhere else. Refn chooses to have the actors display the characters’ affections for one another, rather than by them saying so.
I believe that it’s this decision, to show the relationship between the characters through visuals and sound, that makes me enjoy Driver and Irene’s relationship more than most films because it makes it feel real. Refn’s method of displaying emotion also comes in with other characters. In one of my favorite scenes, Driver runs into Irene’s husband, Standard, who has just returned from prison. Although never explicitly stated, it’s clear that Irene’s husband feels very threatened by the presence of Driver. Oscar Isaac, the actor who plays Standard, adds a thick layer of malice to each word in the short encounter with Driver. The lack of music and the fact that Driver never replies creates a really tense atmosphere, one that wouldn’t be possible if Standard were to come straight out and say how much he dislikes Driver.
Another piece of the puzzle as to why I like Drive so much is because the film features great action. The action in the film is sparse. What action there is, then, is quick and brutal. Each sequence leaves a mark on you. The car sequences are my favorite pieces of action in the film, but even those only last for a minute or two. That being said, their scarcity really makes them have an impact. Each set piece has something happen that is key to film going forward; none are just eye candy. The scenes are rough and as realistic as a hollywood car movie can get.
One of the best pieces of action in the film is when the Driver goes to interrogate a man. There’s no shaky cam or quick editing. No, we just see Driver bring the man to the ground. Driver then pulls out a bullet and places it on the man’s head. Driver raises the hammer he’s had in his hand, implying that he will hit the bullet, and begins to interrogate the man he has captive. It’s a really quick moment, but it’s brutal and gets across what’s happening very well. I believe that this is because Refn chooses to show you as little as possible for the idea of a scene to get across. I feel that a lot of films try to spoon feed the audience with exposition, whereas Drive just places you in the middle of it. As long as you’re willing to pay attention, there are enough details for you to figure everything out.
Drive is definitely a movie worth watching because it is a unique action film. It’s also the film that got me interested in Nicolas Winding Refn, which is great! If you want a brutal action movie that stuns visually, you should check out Drive.
Sophomore Luke Rosica is a contributing writer. His email is email@example.com.